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Dr Katy Sian
Senior Lecturer



Katy Sian is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology. She completed her PhD in 2009 at the University of Leeds in the School of Sociology and Social Policy. From 2010-2012 she worked on the TOLERACE project (FP7) as a post-doctoral researcher in the Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies (CERS) University of Leeds, exploring the semantics of tolerance and anti-racism across Europe.

Katy moved to the University of Manchester in 2012 where she held a lecturing position in Sociology before taking up a Hallsworth Research Fellowship in 2013, exploring Sikh and Muslim conflict in the global Sikh diaspora. She has held visiting research posts at the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI); the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society (CSRS) at the University of Victoria, Canada; and at the Centro de Estudos Sociais (CES) University of Coimbra, Portugal.

The main thrust of her scholarship is focused on critical race theory and the performance of postcolonial subjectivity among ethnically marked communities stranded in metropolitan archipelagos. The initial iteration of her research can be seen in her first monograph, Unsettling Sikh and Muslim Conflict: Mistaken Identities, Forced Conversions, and Postcolonial Formations. This book has generated much debate with its pioneering mapping of Sikh-Muslim antagonism as it circulates throughout Britain. Katy is expanding this research by investigating Sikh-Muslim conflict in the USA and Canada where little work exists. Through its unique comparative lens her project explores how inter-ethnic relations are shaped by different diasporic histories and experiences. This research is innovative in that it examines the under-researched issue of inter-minority relations. Her work contributes to broadening understandings of conflict and its interconnections with racism, colonialism, identity, and the politics of inclusion and exclusion.

Katy’s research continues to take a global dimension; in particular she is interested in the expansion and reconfiguration of racism through Islamophobia and post-racial logics against the backdrop of the ‘war on terror’ which can be seen in her co-authored book, Racism, Governance and Public Policy: Beyond Human Rights. Her third book, Conversations in Postcolonial Thought, is an intellectual ethnography that endeavours to illustrate how postcolonial thinkers have interrupted structures of exploitation and exclusion by challenging hegemonic western epistemologies in the Global North. Through a decolonial lens she is interested in challenging the reproduction of colonial knowledge formations.

Katy’s research has aroused interest beyond the academic world and she has made several appearances in the media to discuss questions arising from her work. She is active in the community around anti-racism issues and her research continues to involve her within conversations across third sector and interfaith organizations. In 2014 Katy was one of the five winners of the ‘recognising the real heroes in the struggle against Islamophobia awards’ presented by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, London.

External memberships

  • Editorial Board Member of Race, Ethnicity and Education journal

Departmental roles

  • Deputy Admissions Tutor
  • Programme Lead: MA Criminology and Social Research
  • Equality and Diversity Officer



My research interests fall broadly within the following areas, in which I would also welcome PhD applications:

  • Critical race theory
  • Post/de-coloniality
  • Inter-ethnic relations
  • Islamophobia and the war on terror
  • Critical Sikh studies
  • Migration and Diaspora
  • Citizenship and Multiculturalism
  • Crime and racialization 


Selected publications


Navigating Institutional Racism in British Universties (2019) Palgrave Macmillan: Cham

Conversations in Postcolonial Thought (Nov 2014) Palgrave: London *Reviewed in Journal of Postcolonial Writing, by David Callahan, University of Aveiro, Portugal, June 2015

Unsettling Sikh and Muslim Conflict: Mistaken Identities, Forced Conversions and Postcolonial Formations (April 2013) Lexington Books: Lanham

Racism, Governance and Public Policy: Beyond Human Rights (June 2013) Routledge: London = with S. Sayyid and I. Law

Academic Journal Articles

'Surveillance, Islamophobia, and Sikh Bodies in the War on Terror' Islamophobia Studies Journal, Vol. 4, No. 1, 37-52, Fall 2017

'Born Radicals? Prevent, Positivism, and ‘Race-Thinking’' Palgrave Communications Journal, Vol. 3, No. 6, 1-8, Oct 2017

'Being Black in a White World: Understanding Racism in British universities' International Journal on Collective Identity Research, Vol. 176, No. 2, 1-26, Oct 2017

‘Spies, Surveillance and Stakeouts: Monitoring Muslim Moves in British State Schools’, Race, Ethnicity and Education, Vol. 18, No. 2, 183- 201, March 2015

‘Losing My Religion: Sikhs in the UK’ Sikh Formations, Vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 39-50, May 2013

‘Gurdwaras, Guns and Grudges in ‘post-racial’ America, Sikh Formations: Special Issue, The 3HO Sikh Community, Vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 293–297, December 2012

Understanding Inter-BrAsian Conflict: Sikhs and Muslims in the Diaspora (2011) Sikh Formations, Vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 111–131, August 2011

‘Forced’ Conversions in the British Sikh Diaspora’ (2011) South Asian Popular Culture, Vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 115-130, July 2011

Special Issues

Editor: “Countering Racism in Counter-terrorism and Surveillance Discourse” Palgrave Communications Journal, Oct 2017, Vol. 3, No. 6

Book Chapters

'The Politics of Online Islamophobia and Misogyny' in Bhatia, M., Poynting, S., and Tufail, W. eds. (2018) Media, Crime and Racism, Palgrave Studies in Crime, Media and Culture, Springer: Cham

‘The Politics of Sikh Islamophobia’ in Behloul, S., Leuenberger, S., and Tunger Zanetti, A. eds. (2013) Debating Islam: Negotiating Religion, Europe, and the Self, Transcript Publishers: Bielefeld

‘Don’t Freak I’m a Sikh’ in Sayyid, S., and Vakil, A. eds. (2010) Thinking through Islamophobia, Hurst: London

Research Reports 

‘Framing racism and intolerance: public issues and denunciations: The Media and Muslims in the UK’ TOLERACE: CERS, University of Leeds (2011) = with S. Sayyid and I. Law

‘Debates on Difference and Integration in Education: Monitoring Extremism in the UK, Muslims in school’ TOLERACE: CERS, University of Leeds (2011) = with S. Sayyid and I. Law

‘The Geography of (anti-)Racism and Tolerance: Local Policy Responses, Discrimination and Employment: Muslims and employment in the UK’, TOLERACE: CERS, University of Leeds (2011) = with S. Sayyid and I. Law 

‘Analysis of Integration Policies and Public State-Endorsed Institutions at National/Regional Levels: Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)’, TOLERACE: CERS, University of Leeds (2010) = with S. Sayyid and I. Law 

Commissioned Reports  

‘The Price of Inequality: Black Manifesto’, A Report by The 1990 Trust in conjunction with Equanomics and ROOTS Research Centre: London (2009) = with NGO contributors, policy think tanks and anti-racist organizations 

‘Institutional Racism and ‘Post-Racial’ Politics in the UK’, A report by Equanomics UK in conjunction with The 1990 Trust and ROOTS Research Centre: London (2009) = with Chouhan, K

Review Articles 

E. San Juan, Jr (2007) In the Wake of Terror: Class, Race, Nation, Ethnicity in the Postmodern World, Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, Ethnic and Racial Studies Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 388-399, February 2009

N. Ali, V. Kalra & S. Sayyid (eds) (2005) A Postcolonial People: South Asians in Britain, London: Hurst, Darkmatter, July 2007

Other Publications 



Contact details

Dr Katy Sian
Senior Lecturer
Department of Sociology
University of York
Wentworth College
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 324738