Department of Music

Professor Rachel Harris

Key information

Department of Music Professor of Ethnomusicology School of Arts Director of Doctoral Studies China Institute Academic Staff, SOAS China Institute Centre of Contemporary Central Asia and the Caucasus Academic Staff Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies Member
Department of Music
BA (Oxon); MMus, PhD (London)
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
020 7898 4513
Support hours
Tuesdays, 12:00pm–1:00pm (in person) and online by appointment


My research is centred on China and Central Asia, and especially on the Uyghurs. I have conducted fieldwork in Xinjiang, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan over a period of twenty years. I focus on intangible cultural heritage, music and Islam, soundscapes, and state projects of territorialisation. I work in applied ways with performance and transmission projects, including concerts, workshops, and recording projects.

I have fifteen years’ experience of teaching and doctoral supervision in the discipline of ethnomusicology, and I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students. My most recent book is Soundscapes of Uyghur Islam (IUP 2020), and my most recent edited volume is Ethnographies of Islam in China (U Hawaii 2020). I co-edited the journal Ethnomusicology Forum between 2004 and 2007, and I am currently series editor for the Routledge SOAS Studies in Music Series.

Research interests

I was principal investigator on the AHRC network (2013-15) and Leverhulme Research Project (2014-2017) ‘Sounding Islam in China’. The project involved collaborative field research with local communities and researchers in selected Sounding Islam in China and a series of publications including the edited volume Ethnographies of Islam in China. My latest monograph Soundscapes of Uyghur Islam focuses on the Uyghur Islamic revival, using sound as a key medium through which to understand the experience of faith, patterns of religious change, political tensions and violence.

Earlier books include Singing the Village, 2004, which explores the experience of the descendants of a Manchu garrison under the People’s Republic of China, and issues of identity, change, and the musical construction of place. My second monograph (The Making of a Musical Canon in Chinese Central Asia, 2008) considers nationalist projects of canonisation, and the transformation of local traditions into national repertoires. I have published on the transnational circulation of popular musical styles including reggae, flamenco and Hindi film music, and processes of digital mediation and identity formation across the Uyghur diaspora.

My current research project, the Uyghur Meshrep Project, supported by the British Academy Sustainable Development Fund (2018-2021), works to document and revitalise expressive culture and promote sustainable development amongst Uyghur communities in Kazakhstan. I am involved with advocacy initiatives for Uyghur rights, and I regularly contribute to blogs (for example, the Xinjiang Data Project) and engage with media reporting on Xinjiang.

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Dr Ruard Absaroka Hidden Musicians and Public Musicking in Shanghai
Arka Chakraborty Anglophone music in Calcutta, c. 1953-1982
Jun Feng Paiziluo Shawm and Percussion Bands in Hubei Province (China) and Social Changes
Aurelie Solenne Gandour Gender in barbershop singing: Shifting tradition through performative negotiations of gender
Mr Sam Grant Metal Music and its Relationship to Folk Music and National Identity in the Middle East
Ros Hawley A Reflexive Study of Music Practice in a UK Paediatric Hospital Setting
Haewon Lee International Cooperation in safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH): Case studies from the Republic of Korea and Vietnam
Edoardo Marcarini I Want to Remain Persian: Music, Memory and Identity Among Iranian Jews in Israel
Luigi Monteanni Extreme Entertainments Genre formations and the indigenisation of extreme metal in the Sundanese horse trance dance of West Java
Georgette Nummelin Contemporary Expressions of Living Culture: Ainu Worlds (re)created and (re)claimed through music and language
Maria Rijo Lopes Da Cunha The Contemporary Revival of Naḥda Music in Lebanon: Politics of Remembrance and Representation
Charlotte Schuitenmaker Sounding First Nations Storytelling in Sydney, Australia
Boris Wong Military Band as Socio-Political Agent: Negotiating and Constructing Identities in Postcolonial Singapore