Self-Contradictions and Projected Otherness: Images of Sikh Militancy in the Writings of Orientalist Scholars and Contemporary Textbook Authors
James R. Lewis [+]
University of Tromsø
Over two decades ago, I authored a number of articles in which I critically examined Western portrayals of Sikhs and Sikhism. More specifically, I examined how the assumptions and interests of scholar-officials in the British Raj shaped their representations of Sikhs and Sikhism. Secondarily, I discussed how these often inaccurate images of the Sikh religion were picked up and redeployed by the authors of world religions textbooks that were written in the latter half of the twentieth century. In the present chapter, I propose to revisit the topic of images of the Sikh religion in Western scholarship, recapitulate my earlier arguments and examine the Enlightenment-informed Orientalist origins of Western discourse about the imputed pacifism/militancy of the Sikh gurus, broadening my discussion to include the most recent manifestations of these notions in contemporary textbooks.