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Keywords:

  • identity;
  • religion;
  • Sikhs;
  • identity process theory;
  • social representations

ABSTRACT

Sikhs constitute a high proportion of the ethnic minority population in Britain. Yet, social psychologists have largely neglected this demographically important religious group, leaving much of the theorising to anthropologists and sociologists. The present study explores how a group of British-born Sikhs understood and defined their Sikh identities, focussing upon strategies for safeguarding the continuity and distinctiveness of this identity. Ten individuals were interviewed. Informed by identity process theory, the transcripts were subjected to thematic analysis. Three superordinate themes are reported, namely (i) “Freedom and gender equality”: the ‘essence’ of Sikh identity; (ii) Continuing the legacy of the Gurus; and (iii) Maintaining group continuity and distinctiveness in a threatening social context. Theoretical and practical implications of the research are discussed, particularly in relation to intergroup relations. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.