In this talk, I explore the transnational dimensions of caste and gender in the Punjabi Sikh diaspora of the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Jats, a powerful landowning caste in Punjab, India and the largest demographic of Punjabi Sikhs in the PNW, have developed hierarchical and segregated practices that are exclusionary towards Dalit (low-caste) Sikhs. I examine how Jat Sikh youth in the PNW are implicated in a materialistic and gendered ideal of ‘Jat cool’ – a form of social currency that emerges across popular culture and social media – to demonstrate how diasporic cultural practices produce hegemonic caste cultures.
Sasha Sabherwal is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Asian American Studies at UIUC. She received her PhD in American Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Yale University. She is an interdisciplinary scholar of South Asian diaspora studies with research interests in transnational feminism, migration studies, the anthropology of religion, and social geographies of borderland communities. Her book project, Circuits of Faith: Transnational Religion, Caste, and Gender in the Sikh Diaspora of the Pacific Northwest, examines how caste, a complex form of social stratification based on purity and pollution, remains central within the Pacific Northwest Sikh diaspora. Her scholarly work has been published in Sikh Formations, Anthropological Quarterly, Sikh Research Journal, and forthcoming in Social Text.