My guest this week is Jasjit Singh, Associate Professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Leeds where his research includes how people learn about religion and engage with their religious heritage. He is originally from Bradford and did a degree in Computer Science and Accounting at Manchester.
We learn how Jasjit found that there weren’t many HE institutions which studied the Sikh tradition and about his work on a Religion and Society research project on youth. We learn why he’s an accidental activist and why his research was impactful by default. We talk about diversity in the curriculum and how important it is in terms of representation that people see Jasjit on the stage at his university’s Graduation ceremonies.
He remembers encountering Radio 1 when he was in school and getting signed photos of Gary Davies and Steve Wright. Jasjit also saw Prince and Michael Jackson in open air concerts within a few weeks of each other. This was a time of bhangra music too and we learn that at Jasjit’s school there weren’t too many other Sikhs.
Jasjit recalls the days when Bradford had a massive thousand seater cinema. He remembers the queuing and how it was more of a concert than a film experience. He is a big Star Wars fan, and he learn about his not so accidental meeting with Mark Hamill on the red carpet and indeed how he met Luke Skywalker on the day that Luke died.
We discuss how lockdown has changed the way we do what we do, e.g. in terms of conferences.
We find out why Kim Knott was such an influential figure, and Jasjit asks whether universities demonstrate what knowledge production and research actually does. He says we need to recognize the limitations of some of the subjects, e.g. History in school is British history. We talk about the framing of academia and about how Bend it Like Beckham was a seminal movie for South Asians.
Jasjit also talks about the way Sikhs were portrayed in 70s TV and the othering of non-white characters in Hollywood, as well as how the internet has enabled minority communities to undertake their own cultural productions.
At the end of the interview Jasjit talks about going through IVF at the same time that he got his PhD funding. He explains that IVF was a painful experience and isn’t something that men especially talk about. We also discover why Jasjit is mostly a looking forward person.
Please note: Opinions expressed are solely those of Chris Deacy and Jasjit Singh and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of Kent.