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University conference highlights Sikh research and community engagement

University conference highlights Sikh research and community engagement

The University of Wolverhampton is holding a major conference in June to highlight research in Sikh Studies. 

The University’s Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies has drawn together a range of high-profile speakers covering a number of topics affecting the Sikh community. 

The free conference is taking place on Saturday 3 June 2023 from 10.30 am until 4.00 pm in The Forum, Lord Swraj Paul Building, University of Wolverhampton, WV1 1SG.  Refreshments and lunch will be provided.  Anyone interested is encouraged to register a place in advance. 

Focus for the day will be about research in Sikh studies as well as community-based projects taking place in the Sikh community across the UK. 

Dr Opinderjit Kaur Takhar MBE, Associate Professor of Sikh Studies, Director of the Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies at the University and President of Theology and Religious Studies UK, said: “I’m very excited about showcasing recent and current doctoral research in Sikh Studies taking place in the UK. The field of Sikh Studies is a relatively new discipline in academia and traditionally sits within the Study of Religion and Religious Studies, so this is an opportunity to showcase the inter-disciplinary research of both our recent doctoral students, as well as those currently undertaking doctoral research both here at the University of Wolverhampton as well as in other Universities in the UK. ” 

The conference will explore a number of topics with high-profile speakers both from the Sikh community and other areas, covering health and wellbeing, history, society and music, leadership, linguistics and identity and community outreach projects. 

Key speakers will include Dr Sadhu Singh MBE, Rajash Metha, Raj Mann, Gurinder Singh Mann and Satnam Singh, with welcome speeches by Dr Opinderjit Kaur Takhar, Avtar Singh and Preet Kaur Gill MP, who became the first female Sikh Member of Parliament in British history. 

The University of Wolverhampton’s Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies is the first of its kind in the UK and was launched in 2018, offering PhDs and Masters level courses in Sikh studies as well as continuing professional development (CPD) courses for teachers and managers. 



Free Parking is available at the Molineux Stadium, WV1 1SG 

10am: Registration and Refreshments: The Forum, Lord Swraj Paul Building, University of Wolverhampton, WV1 1SG 

10.45:  Welcomes (Lecture Theatre, Mary Seacole Building, WV1 1AD) 

Dr Opinderjit Kaur Takhar, Director of the Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies, University of Wolverhampton. 

Avtar Singh: Chair of Advisory Board for Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies 

Opening Remarks:  Preet Kaur Gill MP  

 11am: Panel 1 - Health and Wellbeing 

Chair – Satnam Singh, Independent Scholar 

“My parents do not understand my diagnosis…they think it’s not real”, Sikhs and Mental Health.   Dr Supreet Kaur Uppal, Lecturer Coventry University. 

“An exploration of Social Isolation amongst South Asians in the West Midlands”. Zakiyyah Ahmed, Doctoral Candidate, Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies. 

“Exploring the experiences of the Sikh community involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh violence and the long-term impacts on mental health”.  Sandeep Rai. Postgraduate student, Keele University.  

“The Sixth River of Panjab: Alcohol dependency amongst Panjabi Sikhs in the UK”.      Dr Avneet Singh Hunjan, University of Wolverhampton. 

12.30pm Panel 2 – History, Society and Music 

Chair – Gurinder Singh Mann, Sikh Museum Initiative & Independent Scholar 

Leadership and Intellectual Authority in the early Khalsa Tradition” Satnam Singh, Independent Scholar. 

“The impact of social media on body image amongst British Indians”.   Menisha Bodh, Doctoral Candidate, Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies. 

“Sikh-ing self in gurbani kirtan: an autoethnographic study of Sikhi through its music”. Narinder Kaur Bring, Doctoral Candidate, Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies. 

1.30pm Lunch, Lord Swraj Paul Building 

2.30pm Panel 3 – Leadership, Linguistics and Identity. 

Chair - Raj Mann, Advisory Board of Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies 

“The Gurus' Dharamyudh: A 1984 Sikh Leadership Interpretation.” Sundeep Singh, Doctoral Candidate, University of Birmingham. 

Sikhs, Panjabi and Panjabi Language: Identity, Crisis and Solutions”. Dr Kiranpreet Kaur Baath, Research Associate, Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies. 

“Lost in Translation”: How Colonialism Affects Sikh Identity. Vishal Sangu, Doctoral Candidate, Open University. 

3.30pm Panel 4 – Community outreach projects  

Chair – Rajash Mehta, Advisory Board of Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies 

“Positive Participation: Mental wellbeing”. Gurbax Kaur. 

“Mental Health and Mindfulness”. Bhupinder Singh, Wellbeing Coach. 

“The Digital Panjabi village project”. Sahjan Kooner, artist. 

4.30pm: Sikhs in Academia Initiative. Dr Harjinder Lallie, Warwick University. 

4.45pm Vote of thanks and Closing of Conference 

Dr Sadhu Singh MBE, Vice Chair of Advisory Board, Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies  


Zakiyyah Ahmed: Research suggests that there is a growing number of older populations in the United Kingdom. This study aims to explore how intergenerational practices can contribute to South Asians’ (aged 65+) social integration in the West Midlands. 

Dr Kiranpreet Kaur Baath: The paper will start by discussing briefly the historical and cultural identity of language and the inter-relational currency of the language for the Sikh identity. In the second half, I will be discussing about the crisis faced by the language and its meaning for the Panjabi community, specifically the Sikhs. This will be supported by empirical evidence and secondary readings. At last, the paper will propose solutions. 

Menisha Bodh: The overall aim of this research study is to investigate the Indian diasporas understanding of the impact of social media on body image and mental well-being. 

Narinder Kaur Bring: Gurmat sangit is a term used to describe gurbani kirtan; a musical and singing form of devotional worship, performed on traditional stringed instruments customary during the Sikh Guru period (late 15th – 17th century). In seeking authenticity and connection to the Sikh heritage there has been a rise in interest on kirtan performed on traditional stringed instruments within the British Sikh diaspora. Using Allan Moore’s (2002) categorisation of first, second and third person authenticity as a springboard to explore how authenticity pertains to gurbani kirtan. The author expands outside traditional social sciences, incorporating Carl Jung’s ‘collective unconscious’ epigenetics and morphic resonance in providing a unique possibility for tapping into a collective wisdom of gurbani kirtan. Concluding the notion of authenticity for a practitioner is much more than consensus building of knowledge of the past but requires living it through experience in the present.  

Avneet Singh Hunjan: This presentation will explore how religious and cultural factors define and influence drinking patterns among Panjabi Sikhs in the UK. The implications for health policy and practice will be discussed along with proposed recommendations. 

Sandeep Rai: Through the lens of person-centred theory, this poetic-narrative inquiry invites two Sikh men to share their stories through semi-structured interviews exploring their experiences of the 1984 anti-Sikh violence in Delhi and the mental health impacts of these events, in order to better understand how mental health services in the UK could facilitate this community.     

Vishal Sangu: This presentation traces the interactions and influence of colonialism on Sikh identity. The specific focus will be between 1870-1920, when Sikh identity was reforming under the Singh Sabha movements. Arguing the “World Religion” understanding of “Sikhism” is a de-political, private, and colonial construct. Focusing on decolonisation of thought and advocating the understanding of Sikhi as a religious-political (Miri/Piri), decolonial, lived identity. This is done through tracing colonial scholarship, Sikh scholarship, and theories and understandings in Religious Studies.  

Bhupinder Singh: The Punjabi community is one of the fastest-growing South Asian communities in the world. Mindfulness practices can help individuals manage stress and anxiety and address mental health problems. It is crucial to continue raising awareness in the Punjabi community on mental health and advocating for mental health resources and support for individuals struggling with mental health issues. 

Satnam Singh: The 18th century is popularly regarded as a chaotic period that witnessed the steady decline of the Mughal Empire and the Sikh community´s political ascendance to kingship through military rebellion and conquest. Little scholarly attention, however, has been paid to the local challenges in the social spheres as the nascent Khalsa community had to preserve and consolidate their traditions, social hierarchies, scriptures, literature and philosophy during a pivotal century of transition wherein the community, for the first time since its inception in the 15th century, had to survive and flourish without the guidance of a human Guru. 

Sundeep Singh: This thesis draws on Gurbani and historical Sikh sources to understand the concept of Dharamyudh at the time of the Sikh gurus. These concepts are then applied to the thought of Sikh Leadership at the time of 1984, to understand their Interpretation of Dharamyudh. 

Dr Supreet Kaur Uppal: In this talk Supreet will discuss her findings from her PhD which focuses on Sikhs understanding and perceptions of mental well-being whilst exploring attitudes, coping strategies and barriers in seeking professional help. During this talk Supreet will talk about the benefits and challenges of using mixed methodology alongside discussing her results. Supreet received a phenomenal response from her online survey whereby 1001 participants completed this survey within a week of the survey being released. 

Find out more about the University's research in the University’s eZene, Research Matters - showcasing our research successes and news from the sector.  

For more information about courses in the School of Humanities, check out the University website. 


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