Singapore’s National University Elevates Sikh Way of Life with Appointment of British Scholar of Sikh Origin

by Antariksh Singh

In a move aimed at fostering international understanding of Sikh beliefs and practices, the esteemed National University of Singapore (NUS) has appointed British scholar Jasjit Singh as a visiting faculty member. The announcement, made on Wednesday, introduces a dynamic initiative to promote global appreciation of the Sikh way of life.

Hailing from the United Kingdom, Jasjit Singh, 51, presently serves as an associate professor at the University of Leeds and holds a reputation as a foremost authority in Sikh studies. His expertise extends to British Sikhism, a niche he has excelled in through impactful engagements with minority communities and organizations in the UK.

Professor Lionel Wee, the Dean of NUS’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), expressed enthusiasm about Singh’s appointment as the inaugural Central Sikh Gurdwara Board (CSGB) Visiting Professor in Sikh Studies. Wee emphasized that Singh’s role will enrich scholarly perspectives on Sikh beliefs and practices, fostering a deeper understanding among students not only in Singapore but around the world.

The CSGB played a pivotal role in raising a 1.06 million Singaporean dollar endowment fund, a sum matched by the Singaporean government, to establish the first visiting professorship (Chair) in Asia, outside the Indian subcontinent, in collaboration with NUS FASS.

Singh’s tenure at FASS commenced on August 7, coinciding with the beginning of the new academic year (2023-2024). He is currently guiding students through an undergraduate course titled ‘Introduction to Sikhism,’ which delves into the foundational tenets of Sikhism and its historical evolution in pre-colonial and colonial India.

In addition to this foundational course, Singh will deliver guest lectures for the ‘South Asia in Singapore’ and ‘World Religions’ undergraduate courses, broadening the students’ exposure to Sikhism’s rich tapestry.

Under the aegis of NUS FASS’s South Asian Studies Programme, Singh will spearhead research in the field of digital Sikhism—a study exploring how the online realm influences the religious practices of Sikhs, with a particular focus on how Singaporean Sikhs engage digitally.

Further extending his influence, Singh will conduct workshops for the Sikh community and deliver a public lecture open to all, organized collaboratively by CSGB and NUS. The anticipated events are scheduled to take place in November 2023.

Reflecting on his appointment, Jasjit Singh shared his perspective, “This position provides me with the opportunity to teach students from a different social and cultural context to my own and to learn about how they perceive Sikhs and how these perceptions have been developed. It allows me to research a relatively underexamined but very significant part of the Sikh diaspora.”

Jasjit Singh’s association with NUS brings forth a new era of cultural exchange and academic exploration, fostering a deeper appreciation for the Sikh way of life on a global scale.

Antariksh Singh

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