“We’re not just Canadian” : identity negotiations of Canadian Sikh women living with their in-laws
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It may be unusual to hear about married couples choosing to live permanently with the husband’s parents, especially in Canada. However, it is common knowledge among Canadian Sikhs that the tradition of patrilocality remains a cultural ideal in their community. This study provided an opportunity for Canadian Sikh women to speak to this topic as their voices have not been significantly heard within academic literature or within the Sikh community. The research took the form of a narrative inquiry through sharing circles in which five women, including myself, shared their stories and reflected and interpreted the meanings together over the course of three sessions. The findings were analyzed using the theoretical concepts of bi-cultural identity, the dialogical self and voice as they offered a contemporary approach to understanding identity constructions within two cultures. The study revealed that the majority of the women wanted others around them to have a more “Canadian” mindset in terms of equality, desired space and open communication with their in-laws, and were critical of the contradictions between the Punjabi culture and Sikh religion. However, all the women expressed pride in the Punjabi culture and Sikh religion, some took pride in the joint family and all said they were supportive of other women within patrilocality. Overall it was evident that Canadian Sikh women, confronted with patrilocality and various cultural ideologies, expressed their Canadian values as well as pride in the Punjabi culture and Sikh religion; Through bi-cultural identity negotiation and inner and external dialogue, women made difficult decisions about their lives and identities. This study furthers the understanding of social and cultural change and women’s experiences in diasporic contexts by offering support of the theoretical concepts introduced and applied by others. In addition it offers a deeper understanding of the identity constructions of these Punjabi Sikh women who are confronted with patrilocality in Canada.
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