Thesis

Ethnic foodways in the making of transnationals: Central Valley Sikhs

Central Valley Sikhs are an understudied ethno-religious group. This study explores the “Americanization” process, based on the degree to which cuisine has evolved and consumptive patterns have changed since their arrival in California’s Central Valley. Drawing on insight from cultural geography and anthropology, this research examines ethnic foodways in the making of Sikh transnationals. This study contends that migrants experience foodway assimilation differently based on their age at arrival, their current age, and where they live in relation to ethnic food suppliers. The study combines a number of methods collected over a three-year period of intensive research, open-ended questionnaires, participant observation, in-depth personal interviews, and mapping. Because contact with American cultures has resulted in exposure to new types of foods, understanding which traditional foodways have resisted change will help one understand the process of acculturation among Central Valley Sikhs. I found a renewed interest in Punjabi culture, including foods and foodways, among Sikh transnationals, as well as some integration and acceptance of American food culture. The foods consumed by Central Valley Sikhs constitute fundamental components of their ethnic/cultural and geographical identity.

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