This website presents details of my ongoing research into the religious and cultural lives of South Asians in Britain, with a particular focus on Sikhs. My key research interest is in “religious and cultural transmission” – how do people learn about their religious and cultural heritage, and what causes them to want to do so?
Funded Research Projects
2016/17: Exploring ‘Sikh Radicalisation’ in Britain
As PI (Principal Investigator) on this CREST funded project I investigated the idea, context, framing and reality of ‘Sikh radicalisation’ in Britain, from which I produced an executive summary, guide on narratives and issues and final report. The aims and objectives were:
- To undertake an in depth systematic review of relevant literature on Sikh local/transnational networks, mobilisation and activism in Britain.
- To examine who participates in different Sikh networks, mobilisation and activism in Britain and why.
- To investigate the continuing impact of historical events on Sikhs in Britain (e.g. the events of June and November 1984, 9/11, 7/7).
- To understand how Sikhs in Britain learn about, interpret and act upon events in the Panjab and their reaction(s) to these events.
- To interrogate the idea, context and framing of ‘Sikh radicalisation’ in the UK.
- To understand how historical activism in Britain impacts on Sikh activism today.
- To examine what types of narratives, issues and ideologies those participating in radical action engage with.
- To examine the transmission and impact of these narratives.
This project built on earlier work on processes of religious and cultural transmission among young British Sikhs (Singh 2011, 2012, 2014), as well as work on theorisations of diasporas, religious movements/communities and the state in UK South Asian disaporas (McLoughlin 2005, 2010, 2014). Findings were disseminated through consultation events, and through broadcast media (BBC Radio 4, BBC Asian Network).
2015/16: (R)agency? Lived Practices of Anger
As Co-I (Co-Investigator) on this AHRC Connected Communities funded project, I worked as part of a team of academics examining what brings people individually or collectively in community to experience their anger about an issue in a productive or transformative way. The project was divided into a series of sub-projects:
• Dr Geoff Bright (Co-I) focused on cultural continuities and discontinuities within British coal-mining communities and has explored the affective dimensions of resistance and conflict relating to the 1984-85 strike.
• Dr Helen Limon (PI) explored the idea that books and stories written for children are used by them to understand themselves, their families, the wider world around, and adolescent anger which finds few outlets.
• Alex Lockwood (Co-I) engaged with critical issues that cross between animal rights and animal cruelty, biodiversity loss, food security and environmental sustainability.
• Dr Jasjit Singh (Co-I) examined how young British Sikh artists engaged with the storming of the Golden Temple in June 1984 and the subsequent anti-Sikh violence in Delhi in Nov 1984.He interviewed British Sikh artists whose artistic work includes expressions of the events of 1984.
I produced the following film from the interviews conducted with British Sikh artists:
2015/16: Minority Faith Buildings in Britain: Building Hinduism
As Co-I (Co-Investigator) on this project funded by Historic England I am working with Prof Emma Tomalin and Dr Caroline Starkey to help increase knowledge of minority faith buildings in England with a particular focus on Hindu buildings. As part of this project we are developing a blog ‘Building Hinduism‘ containing our reflections. We will also be sharing some of the photographs we are taking as we travel around the country, visiting buildings large and small, old and new, renovated and purpose-built, in rural and urban locations.
Hindu buildings in the English context are under-researched, but provide a fascinating lens through which to view the development of Hindu communities on these shores. The most recent census data indicates that the Hindu population in England and Wales is increasing, having grown from 558,342 in 2001 to 816,633 in 2011. This highlights the importance of understanding how members of this sizeable diasporas engages with religious buildings.
This research is part of a larger research project that the team has been commissioned to undertake by Historic England. Click here if you want to find out more about earlier project for Historic England ‘Building Buddhism’. This current research also involves visiting Jain, Bahai and Zoraostrian buildings.
As PI (Principal Investigator) on this critical review funded as part of the AHRC Cultural Value project I examined existing literature about the place and value of South Asian arts in Britain including research and reports published by academics, arts funding bodies and South Asian arts organisations.
My interest in South Asian Arts and identity has its roots in my doctoral research which examined religious transmission among 18-30 year old British Sikhs. In this research I found that beyond formal methods of religious learning taking place in religious institutions and through events organised by and for young Sikhs, a number of respondents highlighted the role of the arts. One Sikh parent I spoke to explained how his children always drew pictures of their instruments, when asked to draw pictures of themselves. An interview respondent explained how learning kirtan (devotional music) had “brought a lot of discipline in my life – I’ve learned how to apply it to my studies and more importantly I’ve learned a lot about Sikhi through kirtan”. Another told me how the learning of tabla at his local gurdwara had led to playing on stage every week which led to his mother and sister also learning vocals.
The full report is available to download here
2008 – 2012: Keeping the Faith: The Transmission of Sikhi among young British Sikhs (18-30)
Following research on young British Sikhs, hair and the turban which I carried out as part of an MA in Religion and Public Life (published here in 2010), I found a number of events being organised by young Sikhs for young Sikhs to learn and teach about Sikhism. This appeared to contradict statements which I had heard in religious institutions and in the media that young people are no longer interested in religion.
This led me to undertake and complete a PhD (recognised for research excellence) examining religious transmission among young British Sikh adults, examining how they engage with religious tradition and how they negotiate ideas of identity, authority and belonging. Supervised by Prof. Kim Knott and Dr. Sean McLoughlin and funded by the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society programme and the Bradford Educational and Cultural Association of Sikhs (BECAS), my PhD investigated the transmission of religion among young British Sikhs.
This project focused on questions including: What understanding do British Sikhs in the age range 18-30 have of Sikhism? What drives young British Sikhs to organise and attend Sikhism related events? What sources of authority do young British Sikhs draw on, and how have their acquired their knowledge of Sikh tradition, belief and practice?
The research examined how young British Sikhs (18-30) learn about Sikhism focusing on the role of Gurdwaras, Camps/Youth Events and the Internet. As part of this research project I gathered data using interviews, focus groups, radio shows observation at Sikh youth events the first large scale online survey of young British Sikhs.