As an educator my career has spanned two different fields of research: the natural sciences and the humanities. I am a second generation British Sikh educated at King Henry VIII grammar school in the UK, and since 2001 have lived and worked in the USA. After completing a B.Sc. (1st class Hons.) and Ph.D (1989) in Chemistry and publishing a number of research papers in this field, I worked as a research scientist for multinationals such as Laporte, Akzo and Courtaulds, before embarking on an SERC Research Fellowship in Superconductor technology at the University of Warwick. After a phase of social activism in the mid-90’s I decided to change academic field to study philosophy and completed an MA (with distinction) and a Ph.D in Philosophy (1999) from the University of Warwick. I started my humanities teaching career at Coventry University, before taking up a post at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies as a Research Fellow. In 2001 I moved to Hofstra University, New York, to take up a post as Assistant Professor of Religion and first holder of the S.K.K. Bindra Chair in Sikh studies. After five years in New York, I served as S.B.S.C. Endowed Chair in Sikh Studies at the University of Michigan, where I am currently based as Associate Professor of Sikh Studies.
Research Interests: My scholarly interests are very wide. Though grounded in the study of Sikh/Punjabi/South Asian formations, my research and teaching are located at the intersections of a variety of disciplines including: comparative & continental philosophy, history of religions, philosophy of religion, theories of secularism and religion, post-colonial theory, translation studies. In an earlier phase, I looked at the relationship between secularism and religion in the construction of modern Sikhism, focusing on the intellectual and political influence of the 19th and early 20th century Sikh reformist movements. This phase of my work provided some interesting insights into the modern intellectual encounter between India and the West, and the legacies of imperialism as seen through the lens of Sikhism. More recently I have been working on topics such as political theology, sovereignty and the study of violence in the Sikh context.
Current Research: My current research returns to earlier interests in global philosophies and cross-cultural philosophy from a broadly Sikh perspective. First, a monograph which looks at the philosophical encounter between Sikh and Western concepts. This entails complicating conventional methodologies such as comparativism and translation, instead focusing on ‘encounter’ as an event (rather than phenomenon) with a view to develop new and creative ways in which non-Western concepts can be ‘hosted’ in Anglo-Europhone languages. This particular research has implications for the way we think about ‘diaspora’ and theories of integration and interaction between host/foreign cultures, majoritarian/minoritarian cultures. Second, a short monograph that examines the relationship between Violence and Religion, specifically in the context of Sikhism. This study tries to relocate the theory of violence beyond its liberal formulation in opposition to religion, and shows how violence, differently imagined, provides a way of breaking the prohibitions placed on how Western and non-Western concepts, societies and individuals can interact and associate in ways not sanctioned by the State-form. Thirdly, I am developing a series of monographs which take me back into cross-cultural philosophy of religion to develop a diasporic ‘Sikh Philosophy’.
In addition to research monographs I am founding co-editor of the journal Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture and Theory, published four times a year by Routledge, which is now a leading scholarly journal in Sikh Studies. I also served on the editorial advisory boards of Culture and Religion and Religions of South Asia. In 2019 I will be working as co-editor of a new book series: Routledge Critical Sikh Studies. In past years I have served on several steering committees at the American Academy of Religion including the North American Religions Group, South Asian Religions group and the Sikh Studies group.