Between Colonialism and Diaspora: Sikh Cultural Formations in an Imperial World

Front Cover
Duke University Press, Aug 16, 2006 - History - 229 pages
Bringing South Asian and British imperial history together with recent scholarship on transnationalism and postcolonialism, Tony Ballantyne offers a bold reevaluation of constructions of Sikh identity from the late eighteenth century through the early twenty-first. Ballantyne considers Sikh communities and experiences in Punjab, the rest of South Asia, the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world. He charts the shifting, complex, and frequently competing visions of Sikh identity that have been produced in response to the momentous social changes wrought by colonialism and diaspora. In the process, he argues that Sikh studies must expand its scope to take into account not only how Sikhism is figured in religious and political texts but also on the battlefields of Asia and Europe, in the streets of Singapore and Southall, and in the nightclubs of New Delhi and Newcastle.

Constructing an expansive historical archive, Ballantyne draws on film, sculpture, fiction, and Web sites, as well as private papers, government records, journalism, and travel narratives. He proceeds from a critique of recent historiography on the development of Sikhism to an analysis of how Sikh identity changed over the course of the long nineteenth century. Ballantyne goes on to offer a reading of the contested interpretations of the life of Dalip Singh, the last Maharaja of Punjab. He concludes with an exploration of bhangra, a traditional form of Punjabi dance that diasporic artists have transformed into a globally popular music style. Much of bhangra’s recent evolution stems from encounters of the Sikh and Afro-Caribbean communities, particularly in the United Kingdom. Ballantyne contends that such cross-cultural encounters are central in defining Sikh identity both in Punjab and the diaspora.


What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


FramingRe framing Sikh Histories
Entangled Pasts Colonialism Mobility and the Systematization of Sikhism
Maharaja Dalip Singh Memory and the Negotiation of Sikh Identity
Displacement Diaspora and Difference in the Making of Bhangra

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2006)

Tony Ballantyne is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Otago in New Zealand. He is the author of Orientalism and Race: Aryanism in the British Empire and a coeditor of Bodies in Contact: Rethinking Colonial Encounters in World History, also published by Duke University Press.

Bibliographic information