Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Dr.Heather E. Dillaway

Abstract

ABSTRACT

"WE ARE A VOLUNTEERING RELIGION"

A QUALITATIVE STUDY OF SECONDGENERATION SIKHS' VOLUNTEERING PRACTICES IN SOUTHEASTERN MICHIGAN

by

NAVKIRANPAL KAUR

May, 2014

Advisor: Dr. Heather Dillaway

Major: Sociology

Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

Recent social science literature has devoted serious attention to the role of religion in the life of Asian immigrants, however less explored is the civic action and volunteering practices of second generation immigrants. This study examined what role religion or religious organizations play in involving second generation Sikhs in volunteering. Although diverse Asian immigrant populations have been studied to explain how religion impacts the adaptation processes for the first generation, or how religious centers operate to preserve ethnic or religious identity for immigrants, less information is available about the second generation. The overwhelming focus has been on the identification of organizational characteristics of immigrant religions, or the structural transformations that occur to immigrant religions over time. Instead the current study examines the volunteering experiences of second generation Sikhs, to explore how religion informs formal or informal volunteering practices. In the current study I also explore how engagement in formal and informal volunteering allows second generation Sikhs the opportunity to move beyond the Sikh community and participate in the larger U.S. society.

The target population for the study is Second Generation Sikh adults in Southeastern Michigan. This research was qualitative and exploratory in nature and I used snowball sampling procedures to recruit participants. Twenty nine second generation Sikh adults participated in the study. Qualitative, face to face interviews were conducted between September 2011 and March 2012. A phenomenological approach facilitated qualitative analysis to identify important themes and give participants voice in the study. The meanings participants attached to religious identity and religious beliefs, as well as the meanings they attach to formal and informal volunteering practices and their involvement in volunteering is assessed.

The findings from this study indicate that feelings about what it means to be Sikh are deeply embedded in participants' reasons for community involvement. On the one hand, community involvement brings sense of responsibility to each other and reinforces Sikh beliefs and identity; on the other hand, Sikh teachings such as Sewa urge service to Sikh community and beyond. The findings also suggest that the religious center provides a dynamic venue for volunteering opportunities, and also a gateway to volunteering outside the community.

The results also indicate that second generation Sikhs engage in both formal and informal volunteering. These volunteering activities benefit second generation Sikhs in this study at both the individual and community level. Volunteering activities may give personal and social benefits to the individual volunteer, but it also helps build communities. In the U.S. context Sikh involvement in volunteering also builds a positive Sikh image so that non-Sikh individuals in the U.S. know about the Sikh community and understand their beliefs.

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