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Formations of the Sikh Community in Ireland

Satwinder Singh (MPhil)

External Examiner: Dr. Rebecca King O'Riain, Department of Sociology, NUIM
Date Awarded: 2013
Satwinder Singh SEPR graduated thesis 2013


This dissertation examines the formation of the Sikh community in Ireland by providinga brief historical account of the migration of Sikhs to Ireland, as well as by offering a discussion of the key challenges faced in Ireland by Sikh migrants along with their responses to these particular socio-cultural and political contexts in attempting to forge a ‘community' in Ireland. The research draws extensively upon an oral history and photography project entitled ‘A Sikh Face in Ireland' that was commissioned by, and carried out through, the Forum on Migration and Communications (FOMACS) between 2007-2010. The interviews I conducted during this project as research assistant to Dr Glenn Jordan, who created the photographic exhibit, form a substantial methodological component towards the analysis and insights developed throughout this dissertation. In addition to the interviews, the discussions here are grounded in long-term and sustained participant observation in the Dublin gurdwara over the last three years, which constitutes the major field-site for this research. This dissertation offers a particularly located and ground-level perspective on the many issues around migration, multiculturalism, and questions of diversity that have been central to Irish public life over the last two decades, informed by the life experiences of a community that has suffered widespread racial abuse for sporting external signifiers like beards and turbans identified with Muslims in an increasingly Islamophobic Euro-American context. Through this research I hope to present the Sikh communities' experiences and perspectives of migration as insights that might productively influence the depth and range of sensibilities towards migration and migrants in Ireland and outside, both among the general public as well as at policy level. The dissertation consists of four chapters: Chapter One outlines the methodological approach to the research and locates the main theoretical concerns within relevant literature; Chapter Two offers an outline of the history of Sikh migration to Ireland; Chapter Three is a discussion of the key challenges faced by Sikh migrants in Ireland; and Chapter Four is a analysis of the strategies employed by the community in coping with and adapting to life in a foreign land. The dissertation includes several photographs that were taken during the research for ‘A Sikh Face in Ireland' along with archival photographs from family albums shared by the research participants.