Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A paper given at the University of Potsdam, ESA, on 'The Turban – The Impact of 9/11 on Sikh Identity'

ESA RN 34 – Midterm Conference 3.-5. Sept. 2012, List of Thematic Sessions        12-07-2012 

Negotiations of Religious Practices & Identity Formation in Migrant Contexts I

Kamalroop SINGH  

The Turban – The Impact of 9/11 on Sikh Identity

After the terrorist attacks of 9/11 there was a media frenzy of showing turban wearing Taliban. This depiction caused a rapid polarization in the perception about overt religious practices. A visible identification of male Sikhs, and sometimes females, is their Dastar or Turban. The Turban has been worn by different people around the world for many thousands of years, but for the Sikh community it carries a deeply religious significance. For initiated Khalsa Sikhs they are required to wear a turban as a religious obligation. As a result of this perception some turban-Sikhs have been victims of racial violence and had their identity challenged by calls to assimilate into Western societies.
A major problem has been at airports where sometimes security personnel have requested Sikhs to remove their turban. This is problematic for Sikhs as they refrain from cutting their hair and wear turbans, which are not to be removed in public, which would be considered highly undignified for a Khalsa Sikh, as the Sikh turban is not considered by them to be like a hat. In Europe the Sikhs have faced a number of challenges, firstly back in the 1970s in the famous Mandala case victory, that allowed Sikhs to go to school wearing the turban, however, this is now an issue in French schools.
This paper seeks the address the history of the Sikh turban in Europe, with the major focus being post 9/11. In addition, the injunctions regarding the turban from historical ‘Sikh codes of conduct’ or ‘rahitnāme,’ will be discussed. The paper will conclude with an examination of how the Sikhs have dealt with this challenge to their religious identity.

ESA Research Network 34 – Sociology of Religion

University of Potsdam,, Germany

3-5 September 2012
Transformations of the Sacred in Europe and Beyond

The thesis of secularization, once sheer uncontested in the social
sciences, is increasingly under fire. Secularization is nowadays often
deconstructed as an ideology or mere wish dream that is intimately
connected to the rationalist ambitions of modern Enlightenment. Such
alleged blurring of morality and science, of what ‘is’ and what ‘ought’,
informing sociological analysis obviously obscures clear sight on recent
developments in the Western world.

Countless empirical and theoretical studies convincingly demonstrate
that religion is alive and well in Europe and beyond. Particularly after
the attacks of 9/11 in 2001, religious identities have become salient in
a situation of cultural polarization and religious pluralization.
Moreover, we are witnessing a trend towards ‘believing without
belonging’ (Davie, 1994) and – particularly in those European countries
that are most secular – a shift from organized religion to
‘spiritualities of life’ (e.g., Heelas and Woodhead, 2005), paganism and
‘popular religion’ (Knoblauch, 2009). And although the thesis of
secularization has always been highly problematic from a non-European or
global perspective, the rapid globalization of Islam and the Evangelical
upsurge – especially in Africa, Latin America and East Asia – fly in the
face of the long-held expectation that religion is doomed to be a
marginal or socially insignificant phenomenon.

Evidently, then, the focus of sociological analysis has shifted over the
last decades from religious decline to religious change. More than that:
it is theorized that we are living in a “post-secular society”
(Habermas, 2005) where religion is re-vitalized, de-privatized and
increasingly influences politics, voting behavior, matters of the state
and ethical debates in the public domain (e.g., Casanova, 1994).
Motivated by such observations, the mid-term conference calls for papers
addressing changes in the field of religion and, more in particular,
transformations of the sacred in Europe and beyond.

Particularly we welcome studies covering the following topics:

Studies on how and why conceptions of the sacred, religious
beliefs, doctrines, rituals and organizations of long-standing religious
traditions – such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism or Hinduism
– transform under the influence of processes of globalization,
individualization, mediatization as well as changing gender relations.

- Studies dealing with trends of believing without belonging, i.e.
non-institutionalized beliefs, personal ‘bricolage’ and privatized
conceptions of the sacred outside the Churches, Chapels and Mosques.
Encouraged are also studies addressing new, more informal ways of
‘belonging’, religious communication and collective effervescence, i.e.
in loose social networks, discussion groups or virtual communities on
the internet.

- Studies covering popular religion and post-traditional spirituality,
i.e., New Age, esotericism, paganism, occultism, discussing for instance
an epistemological turn from belief to experience and emotion; a
shifting emphasis from transcendence to immanence; from seriousness to
playfulness; or a transition from dualism to monism.

- Studies dealing with implicit religion, i.e. addressing a re-location
of the sacred to seemingly secular domains in society such as
self-identity, sports, modern science and technology. This avenue of
research may also include the place and meaning of the sacred (i.e.,
religious narratives, symbols and images) in popular media texts – in
novels, films, series on television or computer games.

These topics are rough guidelines; papers dealing with religious change
and the transformation of the sacred in Europe and beyond other than
these outlined above are also very welcome. Furthermore we invite PhD
and post-doc candidates to contribute to a poster session, including
work in progress; the best poster will get a – small, but nice – prize.

The following speakers have yet confirmed their participation:

- Prof. Inger Furseth, Director of the Nordic Research Program NOREL, Oslo
- Prof. Hubert Knoblauch, Institute for Sociology, TU Berlin
- Prof. Schirin Amir-Moazami, Institute for Islamic Studies, FU Berlin
- Prof. Volkhard Krech, Director of the Käte Hamburger Kolleg Dynamics
in the History of Religions as well as of the Center for Religious
Studies (CERES) at the University of Bochum
- Dr. Dorota Hall, Department of Religious Studies, Polish Academy of
Sciences, Warsaw
- Prof. Siniša Zrinščak, University of Zagreb (enquired)

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