For young Sikhs living in Western societies the religious context in which they grow up differs very much from that of their parents and grandparents. Jasjit Singh carries out research to help understand the effect of modern life on these young people, as they come into contact with a wide range of religious traditions and alternative forms of spiritual belief, all of which affect attitudes to formal religious structures and institutions.
My research focuses on the way in which young Sikh adults learn about their religious tradition. I am interested in discovering the reasons for the growth of a range of religious activities and organisations for these young people. This includes exploring the role played by youth camps, university Sikh societies and the Internet, comparing these to more traditional routes of learning through family and religious institutions. Young people from many backgrounds appear to be religious in quite different ways from previous generations. By examining how young Sikhs are learning about their religious traditions, I am attempting to discover more about young people’s faith in general, including trying to find out why they can often appear to be more religious than their parents. I am currently focusing on the role of music and musical identities in religious and cultural transmission.
Along with my postdoctoral research, I am an Impact Fellow at the University of Leeds, which means helping other academics to develop research that brings in organisations outside the university, notably community and voluntary groups.
I started out studying science but had no idea how well I would do in the arts and humanities. Following my undergraduate degree and having worked in IT for 15 years, I obtained distinctions in the Open University diploma: Introductory Course to World Religions, and further developed confidence in my academic writing through completing a Master’s degree course in Religion and Public Life, at the University of Leeds, again with distinction. In December 2010, I gained second prize at the University of Leeds ‘Postgraduate of the Year’ competition. With the encouragement of my MA supervisor, I was then successful in being awarded a highly competitive PhD scholarship.
Through my research, I have a strong and ongoing relationship with the BBC Religion and Ethics department, and have become a key contact for programmes about Sikh issues in the UK. I have been invited to speak about my research on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Beyond Belief’, have contributed a number of times to ‘Pause for Thought’ on Radio 2, and the Sunday Programme on BBC Radio Leeds. I have also appeared on the Sikh Channel and Panjab Radio.
I find it really fulfilling that I am now considered to have expertise in my field, which means I am asked to present my work at national and international seminars and conferences, and have often been invited to publish articles and chapters in academic books and journals - so far I have published five articles. I have also been asked to join several national and international research projects and networks including ‘Sikhs in Europe’ which is based at the University of Lund, Sweden, and the ‘Young People and the Cultural Performance of Belief’ project at the University of London.
I would like to continue research into the religious lives of young British members of minority groups, particularly those born and raised in the UK. I hope to contribute to our national religious literacy by developing courses that teach undergraduate students about the religious landscape of the UK. I also hope to carry on with my Impact work - demonstrating the value of research to those outside universities and also working to involve local communities in research.