Routed Communities: Race, Religion, and Labor in the Punjabi American Trucking Industry

Loveleen Brar
PhD Candidate, American Culture
University of Michigan

This project examines the rising number of Punjabi Sikh truck drivers, and the Punjabi owned truck stops, called dhabas, that have popped up across the major US interstates. While narratives about Punjabi Sikhs in the trucking industry have focused on their entrepreneurial successes, they have ignored the xenophobic and nativist sentiments Punjabi Sikhs face within the industry. This project explores how Punjabi Sikhs have turned to each other to find safety on the road. My dissertation asks, what network of care are created and recreated in the diaspora? In what ways does the dhaba become a site for diasporic culture, faith, and survival? Using ethnographic methods, this project will look at two truck stops that have constructed makeshift Sikh temples on-site. The objectives of this project are to understand how the dhaba functions as a site of spiritual safety, and how Sikh truck drivers make up a mobile congregation.

Keywords: Diaspora, Labor, Sikh, Xenophobia

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