I am based at the University of Leeds where I am employed as an Associate Professor 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’.
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.
How I got here
I currently live with my family in North Leeds. Having graduated from the University of Manchester in 1993 with a degree in Computer Science and Accounting, I spent around twelve years working in I.T. in a variety of roles. Whilst working I used most of my holidays to travel and undertook a trip round the world in 1997.
I have always been interested in religious and cultural identity and in 2005 decided to undertake some structured study on the Sikh tradition, studying part time for a course on World Religions with the Open University in which I achieved a Distinction. This allowed me to start a two year, part time MA in Religion and Public Life at the University of Leeds from October 2005. As part of this course I studied Research Process and Methods, Religion in Public Life, Contemporary Issues in Religion and Gender and Religion and Colonialism. I completed the course by undertaking a dissertation on young British Sikhs, hair and the turban, and again achieved a Distinction in the MA.
For my MA dissertation I interviewed 25 young Sikhs about their views on hair and the turban and found that I really enjoyed the process of research, particularly ethnography and interviewing and focusing on the tradition in which I have been born and brought up. I was particularly struck by the amount of effort and energy being put in by young British Sikhs to teach others about Sikhism, and wanted to understand what drives these Sikhs to put in so much effort. At this time, the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society programme was seeking research projects for its second phase on Religion and Youth. With the encouragement of my MA supervisor Prof Kim Knott, we applied for a collaborative studentship as part of this phase in collaboration with BECAS (Bradford Educational and Cultural Association of Sikhs). We were successful in this application at which point I had to decide whether to continue in I.T. or to leave work and start a full time PhD. As the opportunity to undertake a fully funded PhD does not come around often, with the support of my wife and family I left work in October 2008 to study for a PhD full time.
I passed my PhD viva in 2012, receiving recognition from my examiners for the research excellence of the thesis. Little did I know that my PhD would be bookended with us becoming parents! In becoming a father to two beautiful children and researching subjects in which I am very interested, I am very appreciative that this is one of the most exciting periods of my life.