In Metro Vancouver, Vaisakhi celebrations are organized by local Sikh gurdwaras to mark the Punjabi harvest season and the anniversary of the Sikh Khalsa, which was formed in 1699. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how Vaisakhi celebrations have become mechanisms for state institutions to refigure and extend their racial authority over Sikh places and populations through their coordinated appearances at these public events. These appearances are analyzed to reveal how contemporary racial states are characterized by complex conditions of visibility and public identification that obscure and foreclose the racial conditions of their authority.
The data analyzed for this paper were generated through observational fieldwork at Vaisakhi celebrations and extensive archival and media research on the changing racial governance of Sikh and South Asian populations.
The results show that, in Metro Vancouver, racial modes of governance have created “post-racial” relations between the state’s public visages of diversity and accessibility and its expanded legal regulation of the social and political places of local Sikh populations.
The concept of political appearances is developed to explain how contemporary racial states reproduce and augment their authority through discursive practices of public engagement with minority populations as well as the specific aesthetic conditions of these engagements. The paper also offers important cautions against state practices that expand the presence of law enforcement within marginalized communities by showing how this enhanced visibility can engender forms of racialization.
The research for this article was funded by the UBC Hampton Research Endowment Fund (F14-03516) and an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (435-2018-0149). This manuscript benefited from the generous guidance and feedback of Karim Murji, Giovanni Picker, Natalie Baloy, Renisa Mawani, and the anonymous reviewers.
Buffam, B. (2019), "Political appearances: Race and the places of state authority in Metro Vancouver’s Vaisakhi celebrations", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 39 No. 11/12, pp. 923-936. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-11-2018-0201Download as .RIS
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