Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Robert Ulin

Second Advisor

Dr. Arthur Helweg

Third Advisor

Dr. Laura Spielvogel

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Diaspora as a category is both useful and troublesome for researchers in the discipline of anthropology. It is useful, for it allows anthropologists to approach cultural studies from a position that recognizes flaws in the conception of culture as geographically bounded. Studying diasporic populations, therefore, enables anthropologists to apply new theoretical approaches to culture, without reifying and essentializing social practices. Conversely, using diaspora as a category can homogenize groups by glossing over differences in ethnicity, religion, and migratory expenence.

This study aims at bettering the understanding of diversity within a diasporic population by examining the role that religion plays in the imagining of cultural identity. By examining the construction of a diasporic identity among Sikhs living in Southwest Michigan, I demonstrate how historical, political and social processes interact and contribute to the imagining of a diasporic community. This study grounds theoretical arguments about how communities are imagined with field research conducted in the Kalamazoo area, to demonstrate that cultural identity is the product of the interplay between perceived history and current political events. Also, this study demonstrates the value of including religion and ethnicity in a discussion about how communities negotiate identity in a diasporic setting.

Included in

Anthropology Commons