Volume 11, Issue 2, 2014
Susan LT Ashley
Re-telling, Re-cognition, Re-stitution: Sikh Heritagization in Canada
In Canada, the language and techniques of museums and heritage sites have been adopted and adapted by some immigrant communities to make sense of
their place within their new country. For some groups, “heritagization” is a new value, mobilized for diverse purposes. New museums and heritage sites serve as a form of ethnic media, becoming community gathering points, taking on pedagogical roles, enacting citizenship, and enabling strategic assertion of identity in the public sphere. This article explores this enactment of heritage and citizen-membership through a case study, the Sikh Heritage Museum, developed in Abbotsford by Indo-Canadians. Established in 2011 in an historic and still-functioning gurdwara, the museum is an example of a community’s desire to balance inward-looking historical consciousness and community belonging, with outward-looking voice, recognition and acceptance by mainstream Canadian society. The museum has also become a site of tension between top-down and bottom-up initiatives, where amateur and local expressions butt up against professionalized government activities such as the Canadian Historical Recognition Program that seek to insert formal recognition and social inclusion policies. The article considers the effects of this resource and power differential on the museum’s development, and on the sensibilities and practices of immigrant “heritage” and “citizenship” in Canada.