ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Shifting Imaginaries of Sikh Identity

Sikh Nationalism: From a Dominant Minority to an Ethno-Religious Diaspora by Gurharpal Singh and Giorgio Shani, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022; pp xi + 262, price not mentioned.

Human collectives are often ima­gined as if they have a personality of their own, with a range of qualities and attributes that tend to persist over time, sometimes for centuries or millennia. This is particularly so with popular narratives on ethnic communities and similarly imagined nation states. Not only are they perceived through certain fixed imageries and stereotypes by others, its members and ideologues too tend to look at themselves through such notions. Many of the popular social science theories on these subjects too have similar tendencies. They tend to produce generalisations about social and political processes without giving due weight to their specific contexts and histories. Social science generalisations have an added problem. Most of their popular formulations are drawn from the experiences of modern-day Western Europe, where many of these tropes first evolved during the 19th and 20th centuries.

In reality, however, all human collectives are open-ended processes. This is true of all forms of social identifications and collective lives, ranging from a small village or a kinship-based community to the modern-day nation states and transnational-global communities. They are shaped by the larger realities within which they exist, which are themselves fluid and ever-changing bec­ause of the constantly changing nature of the relevant actors involved and the choices they make. These changes are also not simply a matter of their evolutionary unfolding of a prescripted path, like a child growing up into an adult. Collectives are far more complex, and it is hard to speculate on the trajectories of their movements. They, thus, need constant revisiting, empirically and critically. This is not to deny the value and significance of social science conceptualisations, but merely to underline that these conceptions too need to be constantly assessed and critically examined, foregrounding the empirical reality that they claim to make sense of.

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Updated On : 20th Oct, 2022
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