Faith and Social Capital: Exploring Religious Influence among Indian Immigrants in Multicultural Australia

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This research paper examines the role of religion in providing the impetus to promote levels of social capital that increase social opportunity and improve the quality of life in diasporic immigrant communities. The term "social capital" coined by L.J. Hanifan as early as 1920, refers to that which satisfies the "individual's social needs and bears the intangible social potentialities conducive to the substantial improvement of living conditions of the community". The research conducted as part of an ongoing doctoral study, examines first-generation Indian migrants settled in Sydney to explore the extent to which Hindu religious groups can provide degrees of social capital that may improve the immigrants' ability to achieve better standards of living in their newly appropriated environments.

Drawing upon empirical ethnographic research among the Indian community in Sydney, the paper will explore ways in which values imparted through religious groups are appropriated by the immigrants in creating positive changes in their own lives, which in turn improve their social potentiality. Thus the study sheds light on the conditions under which religious groups can help promote social capital that generates higher levels of education, literacy, health, employment, and other public goods that increase social opportunity. Finally, the research introduces alternative views of social development, which are opposed to its conceptualisation from a purely economical standpoint. To this extent, the paper draws upon Amartya Sen's (1990) critique of utility-based evaluations of development, in favour of human development economics concerned with valuing the quality of life and the fulfillment of basic needs.

Keywords: Migration, Religion, Social Capital, Human Development
Stream: Sociology, Geography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Sree Sudheesh Bhasi

PhD Candidate, Centre for Research on Social Inclusion, Macquarie University
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Ref: I08P0526