University of Leicester
2017CANNINGCPhD.pdf (12.65 MB)

Religious Heritage in Transition: Sikh Places of Worship in England

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posted on 2017-07-07, 15:15 authored by Clare Canning
This research considers Sikh gurdwaras in England as heritage places, responding to recent debates within heritage studies and the wider social sciences surrounding how we identify the value and significance of places for people. It also aims to address an emphasis within heritage practice on original and built form, by allowing for new conceptions of place and value to come to the fore which acknowledge cultural diversity and scalar flexibility. The thesis asks what the value is of gurdwaras in England to those who use and manage them, and have been involved with their ongoing development. It is envisaged that the results presented here will directly impact upon ongoing debates regarding what constitutes heritage in England, and how this is recognised and managed by Historic England and the wider heritage and planning sectors. The methodological approach taken to the research is qualitative, with a focus on exploring the everyday use and significance of gurdwaras for those who use them regularly, or are involved in their management and development. The narrative experiences of respondents reveal shared and competing understandings of places as gurdwaras, reflecting the religious and social diversity of the Sikh community in England. In general, importance is placed on any gurdwara as the home of the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh scriptures) and related practices, and on remaining useful, relevant and purposeful for the immediate and wider community. This research also reveals that the relationship between social and religious values and the physical fabric of a gurdwara building, is nuanced, complex and often highly contextual; where one may be valued because of the community contribution to development work, another may have previously functioned as a church, and is now valued because of its past and ongoing religious function. The implications of this research relate to a need to more fully debate how a range of values and understandings of place can be acknowledged within heritage practice, ensuring the appropriate future recognition and management of perceived heritage places.



O'Sullivan, Deirdre; Young, Ruth

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Archaeology and Ancient History

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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