Portrait of Dr Balihar Sanghera

Dr Balihar Sanghera

Senior Lecturer in Sociology
Divisional Co-Director of Graduate Studies and Postgraduate Student Experience


Dr Balihar Sanghera’s work on the moral economy goes beyond the disciplinary constraints of sociology, economics and ethics. His research has focused on two areas: a) post-socialist transition in Central Asia, where he has studied professions, families, illegal settlements, the judiciary, credit and global capitalism; and b) charitable giving, volunteering and grant-making in the UK. In both areas, Dr Sanghera draws on the same body of theory that emphasises the moral dimensions of economic and social life. 

Dr Sanghera has contributed to sociological debates on the nature of agency and morality, and has explored several important concepts (reflexivity, lay morality, emotions, social justice, contributive justice and rentier class) through his qualitative research projects. 

Prior to joining the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Policy in 2004, Dr Sanghera worked at the American University – Central Asia, Novosibirsk State University and the University of Central England in Birmingham. He studied for a BA (Hons) in Economics from the University of Lancaster and an MSc in Agricultural Economics from the University of Oxford, before earning his PhD in Sociology from the University of Lancaster. 

Research interests

Dr Sanghera’s main interests are political economy, social theory and ethics. He is currently writing up four research projects:

  • Global capitalism and competing economic imaginaries in Central Asia (with Dr Elmira Satybaldieva, started in September 2017) – examines how the US, Russia and China compete to construe and shape Central Asia to secure capital accumulation. 
  • Rentier activities and morality in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan (with Dr Elmira Satybaldieva, started in April 2015) – examines the moral claims of banks and property developers for extracting wealth, and the economic effects on society. 
  • Justice, property and informal settlements in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (started in August 2011) – investigates how the judiciary, state officials and poor groups morally construe and evaluate land and property. 
  • Social justice and philanthropy in the UK (with Dr Kate Bradley, started in January 2011) – explores how philanthropic foundations pursue social justice and change, drawing upon cultural and moral resources to make their judgements.

Dr Sanghera has completed other research projects: 

  • The moral economy of charitable giving and volunteering in the UK (completed in June 2018) - examined how working and middle class groups morally framed their donations and volunteering, and the implications for understanding class and morality. 
  • Family morality, emotions and poverty in Kyrgyzstan (with Mehrigiul Ablezova and Aisalkyn Botoeva, completed in December 2008) – investigated how poverty, emotions and morality shaped family responsibilities and household practices. 
  • Professional ethics in Kyrgyzstan (with Aibek Ilyasov, completed in May 2006) – explored the nature of professional practices, identity and ethics after the collapse of the Soviet Union. 
  • Kyrgyzstan’s political and moral economy (with Elmira Satybaldieva, completed in December 2004) – examined how people negotiated the shifting demands of the market, family, community and the state as they strived to achieve a dignified existence.

Prior to Dr Sanghera’s interests in post-communism and philanthropy, his research focused on the social embeddedness of economic institutions. He completed his doctoral thesis on fruit and vegetable marketplaces in the West Midlands. After his PhD, Dr Sanghera investigated ethnic minority restaurant businesses in Birmingham. 


Dr Sanghera teaches modules covering sociological perspectives and concepts, social ethics, politics and power and sociological research methods at undergraduate level. 

At postgraduate level he teaches on social change and political order and contemporary social theory.


Dr Sanghera is keen to supervise any PhD students whose interests relate to any of his research topics.


Professional activities 

  • Participated in the development of research skills and higher education in Central Asia through his collaboration with the Central Asian Research and Teaching Initiative (CARTI) programme, sponsored by the Open Society Institute, Budapest (2002-12) 
  • Involved with the Sociology Department at Novosibirsk State University, to further teaching and research in social identities in transforming societies (2005-07) 
  • Organised with Tatiana Yarkova and Mehrigiul Ablezova the International Sociology Conference in Bishkek, 17-21 June 2003 
  • Worked for four years as a Civic Education Project visiting fellow, teaching economics and sociology at universities in Novosibirsk and Bishkek (2000-04) 

Dr Sanghera has held several external examiner, journal referee and fellowships positions in the UK and abroad. The following are some of his most recent: 

  • January 2013 - June 2017, External Examiner for BSc Social Studies programme, South Essex College, Essex 
  • Journal Referee for Sociological Theory, Theory & Society, International Sociology, European Journal of Social Theory, Sociological Inquiry, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Social Policy, Europe-Asia Studies, Central Asian Survey, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, Social and Cultural Geography, Voluntary Sector Review, Australian Journal of Social Issues, Policy & Society, Families, Relationships and Societies, and Children & Society 
  • September-December 2017, Visiting Fellow, George F. Kennan Scholar, Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, DC 

Recent national and international presentations 

  • 15 June 2018, ‘Justice and meaningful unpaid work,’ Re-imaging Civil Society Workshop, University of Kent 
  • 6-8 June 2018, ‘Global power and competing economic imaginaries in Central Asia,’ EISA European Workshops in International Studies, University of Groningen (with Elmira Satybaldieva) 
  • 22-23 March 2018, ‘Russia’s and China’s economic strategies in Central Asia,’ International Conference on One Belt and One Road, Laval University (invited, with Elmira Satybaldieva) 
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