Religion in a Changing World: Comparative Studies in Sociology

By Madeleine Cousineau | Go to book overview

zations used temple social gatherings, with the support of gender-conscious husbands, to present antisexist and antiracist skits and dramas that raised consciousness of wife abuse. Through these activities, women were empowered and whole families were educated to awareness that such abuses against women are reprehensible. By contrast, the Maritime Sikh Society in Halifax was exceptional. Atlantic Canada Sikh women performed rituals at the gurdwara. The society also elected an all-women executive, which was responsible for all temple-related activities--managing society money, recruiting Indian singers for celebrations, and organizing the langa after religious ceremonies.

In sum, besides being places for praying and offering an atmosphere of peace, ethnoreligious organizations provided a social context where people could meet and reconstitute consciousness of ethnicity, identity, language, tradition, beliefs, values, and shared meaning systems. They fostered the formation of a specific South Asian identity among children, as they grew up as citizens of the settlement country. They provided needed social, cultural, recreational, and spiritual services and integration within the settlement society, especially for newcomers. In some instances, they were a context for antiracist and antisexist resistance to alienation and discrimination. Women used ethnoreligious organizations to empower themselves, to negotiate and contest their subordinate position in social situations, and to promote change.


CONCLUSION

Through religious activities, women reconstructed a positive identity as South Asian Canadian or Australian or New Zealand women. Their "differences" established boundaries in identity separating them not only from other native-born and immigrant Canadian, Australian, or New Zealand women, respectively, but also from South Asian immigrants of specific regional, cultural, linguistic, and religious backgrounds.

The women's accounts suggested that for the overwhelming majority of them, religious activities in the household and in ethnoreligious organizations were an important factor in recreating a meaningful world, in reconstructing personal and social ethnoreligious identity, in empowering them, and in transmitting key elements of cultural identity to children in the alien context of the settlement country. In Hans Mol ( 1976:1-15) terms, the women sacralized their ethnoreligious identity. They renewed and restored the "sacred canopy" ( Berger 1967) that had been broken by the migration experience.


REFERENCES

Barth Fredrik. 1969. Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Culture Difference. London: George Allen and Unwin.

Berger Peter L. 1967. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of religion. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company.

Berger Peter L., and Thomas Luckmann. 1966. The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of knowledge. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company.

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