Dr Jasjit Singh

Dr Jasjit Singh

Profile

I am based at the University of Leeds where I am employed as a Research Fellow in the School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science (PRHS). My research focuses on the religious and cultural lives of South Asians in Britain, with a particular focus on ‘Religious and Cultural transmission’ and on the representation of religious minorities.

Prior to my current post I was a Research and Impact Fellow as part of Arts Engaged at Leeds, a team dedicated to helping academics work towards understanding how their research could make a difference.

I completed my PhD (recognised for research excellence) in 2012 in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Leeds where my research was supervised by Prof. Kim Knott and Dr. Sean McLoughlin. My PhD was funded through a Collaborative Studentship as part of the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society programme in conjunction with the British Educational and Cultural Association of Sikhs (BECAS), an organisation formed 25 years ago to oversee the educational interests of Sikh children and young people.

Since completing my doctorate in 2012 I have actively sought to enhance my profile not only as a leading researcher and educator, but also as an engaged academic and member of the PRHS team at Leeds. As my profile in academia has grown I have held a number of internal and external posts, and have taken a leading role in local, national and international initiatives.I am increasingly regarded as an innovator in impact related work, evidenced by my invitation by UKRI to speak to research council staff about engagement with minority ethnic communities and organisations (Jan 2018) and by my invitation as tutor at the 2016 ‘Research Methods for The Study Of Religion’ Course, University of Kent where I presented a workshop on ‘Public engagement and research on religion’ to a group of ten doctoral students (March 2016). I have also contributed to the organisation of a number of conferences including as Program Chair for the largest sociology of religion conference in Europe, the International Society for the Sociology of Religion (ISSR) conference in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium (2015) with over 500 delegates. I also co-organised the annual BSA Sociology of Religion Study Group (SOCREL) conference at the University of Leeds (2017) and am on the organising committee of the annual International Sikh Research Conference which takes place at the University of Warwick.

I have acted as peer reviewer for a number of journals, including the Journal of Commonwealth Literature and Religion and since 2016 have been on the editorial board for the ‘Sociology of Religion’ journal. I have also been approached to review research monograph proposals for ‘Routledge Religion research monographs’. In March 2017 I was appointed Fellow at the Faiths and Civil Society Unit at Goldsmiths University and have also participated in various external advisory boards, for instance for the Leeds City Museum ‘Voices of Asia’ display (2013-2017)

Responsibilities

  • TRS / PER / RPS Programme Manager
  • PRHS Ethics Leader

Research interests

My research focuses on processes of religious and cultural transmission in the lives of British South Asians, in particular British Sikhs. To what extent are they influenced by migration, ethnicity and minority status?  And, situated as they are in western modernity, how far do British South Asians experience a ‘turn to the self’ and manage individual authority whilst also sustaining membership of a religious community? My doctoral research which was formally recognised by the University of Leeds for its Research Excellence examined the relationship between traditional arenas of religious transmission such as the family environment and religious institutions and newer arenas of religious transmission often organised by young people themselves including camps, University faith societies and the Internet. I used a number of innovative methods to gather data for my research including the implementation of the first large scale online survey of young British Sikhs with gathered over 600 responses. The research was funded through a Collaborative Doctoral Award as part of the ‘Youth Call’ of the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society programme.  The collaboration was between the Theology and Religious Studies department at the University of Leeds and a local community organisation, BECAS (Bradford Educational and Cultural Association of Sikhs) who were established in 1983 to ensure that the educational needs of young Sikhs were being met in local schools. 

Having established a strong publication profile in religious studies and diaspora studies through articles in field-leading journals such as the Journal of Contemporary Religion (2010), the Journal of Beliefs and Values (2012), Contemporary South Asia (2014), Religion Compass (2014) and the Journal of Punjab Studies (2014) and book chapters in high quality monographs including ‘Religion and Youth’ (2010), ‘Sikhs in Europe: Migration, Identities and Representation’ (2011) and ‘Sikhs Across Borders’ (2012) I am currently expanding the scope and disciplinary reach of my work. This has resulted in journal articles in Asian Anthropology (2015), South Asian Popular Culture (2017) and Sikh Formations (2018) and book chapters in ‘Diaspora: Cultures of Citizenship’ (2015), ‘Digital Methodologies in the Sociology of Religion and Belief’ (2015) and ‘Religion and Higher Education in Europe and North America’ (2016).

Building on these publications and following a successful funding award from CREST (the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats part funded by the ESRC and the UK security and intelligence agencies) I have focused my attention on outputs in a new research area – the representations of minority ethnic religions. The programme of research supported by the CREST award (September 2016 – March 2017) and the publication of my open access research report ‘The idea, context, framing and realities of Sikh radicalisation in Britain’ in November 2017 has raised my profile significantly among academics, national and international media, policy makers and in the Sikh diaspora. My CREST project received much interest following its announcement in September 2016 through to the release of the report in November 2017 and beyond. This has enabled me to implement innovative research and impact activities and to develop my engagement skills with a variety of different audiences including media organisations, policy makers and the Sikh community. Having already built a strong media profile by appearing on mainstream national media as one of few academic commentators on Sikh affairs (e.g. Beyond Belief, Sunday programme, BBC Radio 4), my CREST research has enabled me to develop my engagement with media further, facilitating opportunities to present my research on mainstream media (including BBC Radio 4 Sunday, BBC Asian Network's Big Debate) and on international Sikh media (Sikh Channel, Akaal Channel, KTV). What has been somewhat surprising however has been the unprompted engagement with my research from national and international media including the Panjab Times (Nov 2017), Malaysia Asia Samachar (Nov 2017) and the Times of India (Dec 2017). My articles in ‘The Conversation’ have also been syndicated by international publications and online news portals (see below). Interest in my CREST research has also enabled me to significantly develop my networks with policy makers and statutory organisations during the UAF so far. Given the topic of the CREST research, I developed an innovative method of engaging with the Sikh community in Britain as my findings emerged. Having a strong presence on social media allowed me to contact and inform key stakeholders in the Sikh community about my research and to examine the possibility of these Sikh organisations hosting events for me to present my findings (RIB1). These included public events organised by the Sikh Education Council (July 2017), the Sikh Press Association (Sept 2017), the Sikh Council UK (Oct 2017), Sikh Alliance Yorkshire (Oct 2017) and appearances on Sikh media (Sikh Channel, Akaal Channel, KTV). The organisations provided a venue and a ready audience for my presentations negating the need to hire a venue and to advertise widely. The success of this community engagement has led many of these organisations to hold further public, open community consultations on a variety of issues including ‘Sikhs in Politics’ (SikhPA) and ‘Sikhs and mental health’ (SikhPA, Sikh Alliance Yorkshire). It appears that this method of community consultation, a direct consequence of my research and engagement, will be used by these organisations going forward. This community engagement in the UK led to an invitation to present an online webinar from the Sikh Research Institute, San Antonio (Jan 2018). I was also invited (and fully funded) by the Sikh Youth Federation and the World Sikh Organisation to present my research at a panel discussion on ‘Sikh “Extremism”: Challenging the Media Narrative’ in Toronto (April 2018). Indeed, my CREST research was used by the Sikh Press Association to challenge an article in the Toronto Sun (March 2018) which incorrectly described the concept of martyrdom in the Sikh tradition. The appeal to the Canada’s National News Media Council (NNC) was successful (May 2018) leading to a retraction from the newspaper.

My academic profile has grown significantly evidenced by various funded invitations to present my work at conferences including as keynote (FaithXChange annual conference, Goldsmiths, 2016) and as part of a plenary (‘Religion and Media’, BSA (British Sociological Association) annual conference, Manchester, 2017). I have been invited and fully funded to present at international conferences including the “Sikh Speaker Series” Mount Royal University (Calgary, 2016), the ‘Religion and Diversity’ programme (Ottawa, 2017) and ‘Sikhs and South Asians in the Public Sphere’ (University of California, 2017). I have also been invited to participate in various academic networks including the Faith and Place network (Roehampton, 2015), the Mediating Religion Network (Open University, 2015) and the ‘Re-imagining Religion and Belief for Public Policy and Practice‘, AHRC Colloquium (University of Chester, 2015).

In addition to these major academic and media, policy and community-based outputs, I have also published opinion pieces in ‘The Conversation’ on the case of Scottish national Jagtar Singh Johal (November 2017) and on the Canadian media furore around ‘Sikh extremism’ following the visit of the Canadian Prime Minister to India (March 2018). Both articles were syndicated by national and international media leading to significant readership. Having developed a national and international profile as a ‘specialist’ on Sikhs in diaspora, my expertise has also been called on by statutory bodies, most recently by legal firms dealing with asylum cases relating to Afghan Sikhs (January 2018-). Indeed, through this consultancy I identified that the ‘Country Policy and Information Note, Afghanistan: Hindus and Sikhs’ (Feb 2017) published by the Home Office included inaccurate information on the languages spoken by Afghan Sikhs. Having raised this issue with the Home Office through my participation in the MHCLG ‘Sikh Roundtable’, my work has been included in this guidance which has now been corrected (July 2018). By influencing policy in this way and through my public engagement and impact activities, I am committed to demonstrating the value of and raising the profile of Arts and Humanities research among groups who may not have previously engaged with these disciplines previously.

Details about my teaching, research, media appearances and grants are available here: https://arts.leeds.ac.uk/jasjitsingh/ 

PhD Supervisions: I welcome applications for PhD Supervision in the areas of:

  • Religion in Diaspora
  • Religion and Media
  • Sikh Studies
  • Religion and Culture 
  • Religious Transmission
  • Religion and Policy
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Qualifications

  • PhD (Recognised for Research excellence)
  • MA Religion and Public Life (Distinction)
  • BSc (Hons) Computer Science & Accounting

Student education

I designed and led a Level 2 module ‘THEO2900: The Sikh Tradition’ (2015) in which I received excellent student feedback (RIB3) including ‘This module has been by far the best one I have done this year’ and ‘What a BRILLIANT module! I have enjoyed every second of 'The Sikh Tradition' and I am so glad I chose it.’ I have also used my expertise in ethnographic research among minority ethnic religious communities to supervise a number of Level 3 student final year dissertations (PRHS3000) and final year placements (PRHS3700). In addition, I have developed seminars for a range of MA modules including ‘Religion and Representation’ for ‘Religion, Society and Public Life’ (THEO5355M) and ‘Quantitative Research Methods’ for ‘Religion and Society: Research Process and Methods’ (THEO5325M). In 2017 I took over module leadership of the Level 1 module ‘THEO1930: Introduction to the Study of Religion’ which included a redesign of the lectures on postcolonialism and religion in diaspora. I now also lead ‘THEO1960: Religion in Modern Britain’ (2018) and contribute to the Faculty module ‘FOAR3150: Religion and Violence’ (2017) and to the Level 1 module ‘THEO1900: Introduction to South Asian Religions’. As an expert on Sikhs in diaspora I was recently invited to present a seminar to students at Queens University, Canada (Feb 2018).

In September 2017, I took on the role of Personal Tutor for thirty-five Level 1 students which enabled me to further understand and address student issues and concerns. Recognising the cultural diversity of students and Leeds, I am keen to ensure that my module bibliographies reflect a range of perspectives and to this end I am representing PRHS on the ‘Why is my Curriculum White?’ group. I acknowledge my role in facilitating students of all backgrounds to access communities which they may not have engaged with before. In 2016 I organised a bus tour of the Gurdwaras in Leeds for Level 2 THEO2900 students, using religious buildings as pedagogy and demonstrating to the students the practicalities of engaging with perceived ‘hard to reach’ minority religious communities.

In 2018 I am acting as Programme Manager for TRS/PER/RPS

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Religion and Public Life
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/research-opportunities">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>