Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Adam Davis

Reader 2

Kasper Kovitz

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Rights Information

© 2016 Saloni K. Kalkat


It has been over a century since the maternal side of my family has resided in the natal land of our cultural heritage and religious proclivities – Punjab, India, where Sikhism was established. As an American I continue this extension of our roots from their source. Through the process of shifting location, cultural confluence, and passing time the experiences of the women in each successive generation of my family have altered significantly through our diasporic existence. However, even in the aftermath of colonization and immigration, the enduring responsibility of women is reliant upon their relation to family.

This ideology is imbued through the words of the Sikh holy text, the Guru Granth Sahib, as well as broader Indian cultural norms regarding gender roles. Implicit in the religious tradition of locating family in female members lies the practice of making women emblematic of cultural survival. Thus, within their role of sustaining physical life women also sustain culture. This becomes increasingly important when culture is extracted from its source. Despite dispersion across the world, the women in my family have continued to fulfill the responsibility of the safekeeping of culture and traditions.

My series of three portraits, Daughter, Wife, Mother, illustrates the primary familial ties that determine an Indian woman’s identity throughout her life, and evokes the duty of cultural preservation that is associated with each of them. These oil paintings are based off of photos of me, my mother, and my grandmother from our family archive. Daughter, Wife, Mother lacks any indications of time period or specific location, thus asserting that this gendered life journey has persisted throughout my family’s diaspora.