Religion in a Changing World: Comparative Studies in Sociology

By Madeleine Cousineau | Go to book overview

4
Identity Reconstruction and Empowerment of South Asian Immigrant Women in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand

Helen Ralston


RELIGION, MIGRATION, AND IDENTITY RECONSTRUCTION IN EVERYDAY LIFE

Migration is an ongoing process that involves not only leaving a homeland and crossing territorial borders but also crossing social, psychic, and symbolic borders that define relations, membership, belonging, religious meaning systems, and worldviews of realities of everyday experience ( Berger and Luckmann 1966; Berger 1967). It involves a sharp break in lived experience of cultural and religious identity, in group membership, and in a meaningful worldview in a birth country and reconstruction of a dynamic culture, identity, and worldview in a new settlement.

Culture, like identity, is not a static collection of customs, beliefs, and practices that women carry in their bodies or their baggage when they leave their homeland. On the contrary, culture and identity are continually being shaped and reconstructed subjectively and socially along many axes (such as race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and national origin) through relationships with other immigrants and with native-born residents of the settlement country. Race, ethnic, gender, class, and caste relations organize social life and imply, on one hand, a complexity of shared meanings and understandings in social relations in various spheres of a group's activities and, on the other hand, a recognition of boundaries and limitations in shared understandings and of differences in social relations ( Barth 1969:15- 16)--and, I would add, in relations of ruling--with other groups.

In this chapter I have drawn on Weber's ( Gerth and Mills 1946:218) notion of religion as creating a "meaningful cosmos" out of a world that is "experienced as specifically senseless" and Berger ( 1967:25) conception of religion as "the human enterprise by which a sacred cosmos is established." I have also adopted Dorothy Smith's insights about knowing society from the standpoint of women and making visible "relations in which each individual's everyday world is embedded"

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