SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

Professor Rachel Harris

BA (Oxon); MMus, PhD (London)
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Expertise
  • Publications


Rachel Harris
School of Arts

Director of Doctoral Studies

Department of Music

Professor of Ethnomusicology

SOAS China Institute

Academic Staff, SOAS China Institute

SOAS Centre of Contemporary Central Asia & the Caucasus

Academic Staff, Centre of Contemporary Central Asia and the Caucasus

Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies


Professor Rachel Harris
Email address:
020 7898 4513
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Academic Support Hours:
Wed 10.30-11.30 online, Fri 10.30-11.30 in person


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.


Programmes Convened
Modules Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Charlotte Schuitenmaker, Activism and Urbanism in Contemporary Indigenous Music-Making in Australia.
  • Georgette Nummelin, Music as a Method for Sustaining and Revitalising the Ainu Language and Identity
  • Haewon Lee, Alternative Ways for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in a Globalised World : A multinational project on Vietnamese Lên Đồng ritual performance and the involvement of UNESCO
  • Jun Feng, Paiziluo Shawm and Percussion Bands in Hubei Province (China) and Social Changes
  • Maria Rijo Lopes Da Cunha, The Contemporary Revival of Naḥda Music in Lebanon: Politics of Remembrance and Representation
  • Ros Hawley, A Reflexive Study of Music Practice in a UK Paediatric Hospital Setting
  • Ruard Absaroka, Hidden Musicians and Public Musicking in Shanghai
  • Sam Grant, Metal Music and its Relationship to Folk Music and National Identity in the Middle East
  • Saeid Kordmafi


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.

Twitter profile: @Rachel_A_Harris


For help in contacting SOAS academics and advice on services to business and the community, please contact SOAS Enterprise on +44(0)20 7898 4837 or email
For all press and media enquiries please call +44 (0)20 7898 4135 or email

Available for
  • Briefings
  • Special Study Programmes
Regional Expertise
  • Central Asia
  • East Asia
Country Expertise
  • China


Authored Books

Harris, Rachel (2020) Soundscapes of Uyghur Islam. USA: Indiana University Press.

Harris, Rachel (2008) The Making of a Musical Canon in Chinese Central Asia: The Uyghur Twelve Muqam. Aldershot: Ashgate Press.

Harris, Rachel (2004) Singing the Village. Music, Memory, and Ritual amongst the Sibe of Xinjiang.. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Harris, Rachel and Kamalov, Ablet (2020) 'Nation, Religion, and Social Heat: Heritaging Uyghur Mäshräp in Kazakhstan'. Central Asian Survey, (40) 1, pp 9-33.

Harris, Rachel (2020) '“A Weekly Mäshräp to Tackle Extremism”: Music-making in Uyghur Communities and Intangible Cultural Heritage in China'. Ethnomusicology, (64) 1, pp 23-55.

Harris, Rachel and Isa, Aziz (2018) 'Islam by smartphone: reading the Uyghur Islamic revival on WeChat'. Central Asian Survey, (38) 1, pp 61-80.

Wood, Abigail and Harris, Rachel (2018) 'Introduction: Sharing space? Sharing culture? Applied experiments in music-making across borders'. World of Music, (7) 1-2, pp 7-16.

Harris, Rachel (2018) 'Applied experiments in collaboration along the Silk Road'. World of Music, (7) 1+2, pp 37-59.

Harris, Rachel (2017) 'The New Battleground: Song-and-dance in China’s Muslim borderlands'. World of Music, (6) 2, pp 35-56.

Harris, Rachel (2015) 'The Changing Uyghur Religious Soundscape'. Performing Islam, (3) 1-2, pp 93-114.

Harris, Rachel and Jaschok, Maria (2015) 'Introduction: Sounding Islam in China'. Performing Islam, (3) 1-2, pp 3-13.

Harris, Rachel (2014) 'The Oil is Sizzling in the Pot’: Sound and Emotion in Uyghur Qur'anic Recitation'. Ethnomusicology Forum, (23) 3, pp 331-359.

Harris, Rachel (2012) 'Tracks: temporal shifts and transnational networks of sentiment in Uyghur song'. Ethnomusicology, (56) 3, pp 450-475.

Harris, Rachel (2011) 'Invitation to a mourning ceremony: perspectives on the Uyghur internet'. Inner Asia, (13) 1, pp 27-49.

Harris, Rachel (2005) 'Reggae on the Silk Road: the Globalisation of Uyghur Pop'. The China Quarterly, (183) 1, pp 627-643.

Harris, Rachel (2005) 'Wang Luobin: Folksong King of the Northwest or Song Thief? Copyright, Representation and Chinese Folksongs'. Modern China, (31) 3, pp 381-408.

Harris, Rachel and Dawut, Rahile (2002) 'Mazar festivals of the Uyghurs: Music, Islam and the Chinese State'. British Journal of Ethnomusicology, (11) 1, pp 101-118.

Harris, Rachel (2000) 'From Shamanic Ritual to Karaoke: the (trans)migrations of a Chinese folksong'. CHIME: Journal of the European Foundation for Chinese Music Research, (14/15), pp 48-60.

Edited Books or Journals

Harris, Rachel and Ha, Guangtian and Jaschok, Maria, (eds.), (2020) Ethnographies of Islam in China. Hawaii: University of Hawai'i Press.

Harris, Rachel and Wood, Abigail, (eds.), (2018) Sharing Space? Sharing Culture? Applied Experiments in Music-Making Across Borders. Berlin: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung. (The World of Music (new series), Volume 7, Issue 1+2).

Harris, Rachel and Stokes, Martin, (eds.), (2017) Theory and Practice in the Music of the Islamic World: Essays in Honour of Owen Wright. Abingdon; New York: Routledge. (SOAS Musicology Series).

Harris, Rachel and Pease, Rowan, (eds.), (2015) Pieces of the Musical World: Sounds and Cultures. Abingdon: Routledge.

Harris, Rachel and Pease, Rowan and Tan, Shzr Ee, (eds.), (2013) Gender in Chinese Music. Rochester: University of Rochester Press. (Eastman/Rochester Studies Ethnomusicology).

Bellér-Hann, Ildiko and Césaro, Cristina and Harris, Rachel and Smith-Finley, Joanne, (eds.), (2007) Situating the Uyghurs: between China and Central Asia. Aldershot: Ashgate Press.

Book Chapters

Harris, Rachel (2022) 'UYGHUR HERITAGE UNDER CHINA’S “ANTI-RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM” CAMPAIGNS'. In: Cuno, James and Weiss, Thomas G., (eds.), Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities. Getty Publications. [Forthcoming]

Harris, Rachel and Karimova, Zulfiyam (2022) 'Women’s Chay Gatherings in Kazakhstan: Sustaining identity in migrant communities'. In: Mirsultan, Aysima and Schluessel, Eric and Sulaiman, Eset, (eds.), Community Still Matters: Uyghur Culture and Society in Central Asian Context. København: NIAS Press, pp 203-217.

Harris, Rachel (2021) 'The Soundscapes Turn in Ethnomusicology: Sonic territoriality and the Islamic revival across Chinese-Central Asian borders'. In: Cottrell, Stephen, (ed.), Music, Dance and Anthropology. London: Royal Anthropological Institute; Sean Kingston Publishing.

Harris, Rachel and Dawut, Rahile (2020) 'Listening in on Uyghur Wedding Videos: Piety, Tradition, and Self-fashioning'. In: Harris, Rachel and Ha, Guangtian and Jaschok, Maria, (eds.), Ethnographies of Islam in China. Hawai'i: University of Hawai'i Press.

Harris, Rachel (2018) 'Dissonant Voices in China’s Harmonious Society: From Cassettes to WeChat, Nation to Anashid'. In: Manabe, Noriko and Drott, Eric, (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Protest Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Forthcoming]

Harris, Rachel (2017) 'Theory and practice in contemporary Central Asian Maqām traditions: the Uyghur On Ikki Muqam and the Kashmiri Sufyana Musiqi'. In: Harris, Rachel and Stokes, Martin, (eds.), Theory and Practice in the Music of the Islamic World: Essays in Honour of Owen Wright. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, pp 217-237.

Webster-Kogen, Ilana (2016) ''Tezeta' (Nostalgia): Memory and Loss in Ethiopia and the Diaspora'. In: Harris, Rachel and Pease, Rowan, (eds.), Pieces of the Musical World: Sounds and Culture. Abigndon: Routledge, pp 227-244.

Marriage, Zoe (2015) '"Grande Mestre": Longing and celebration in Capoeira Angola (Brazil)'. In: Harris, Rachel and Pease, Rowan, (eds.), Pieces of the Musical World: Sounds and Cultures. Abingdon: Routledge.

Harris, Rachel (2015) '“Subhan’Allāh” (Glory to God): Listening and Weeping in a Dhikr Ceremony'. In: Harris, Rachel and Pease, Rowan, (eds.), Pieces of the Musical World: Sounds and Cultures. Oxon; New York: Routledge, pp 123-138.

Impey, Angela (2015) '“Song of Akuac”: Audio-letters from South Sudan: Tracing Dinka Networks, Connections, and Intimacies beyond the war zone.'. In: Harris, Rachel and Pease, Rowan, (eds.), Pieces of the Musical World. Sounds and Culture. New York and London: Routledge, pp 195-207.

Harris, Rachel (2013) 'Doing Satan’s Business: Negotiating gendered concepts of music and ritual in rural Xinjiang'. In: Harris, Rachel and Pease, Rowan and Tan, Shzr Ee, (eds.), Gender in Chinese Music. Rochester: University of Rochester Press.

Harris, Rachel (2013) 'Harmonizing Islam in Xinjiang: sound and meaning in rural Uyghur religious practice'. In: Bellér-Hann, Ildiko and Brox, Trine, (eds.), On the Fringes of the Harmonious Society: Tibetans and Uyghurs in Socialist China. Copenhagen: NIAS Press, pp 293-317.

Harris, Rachel (2012) 'The Uyghur Muqam'. In: Levin, Theodore and Kuchumkulova, Elmira, (eds.), Music of Central Asia: an Introduction. Naryn: Aga Khan Trust for Culture & University of Central Asia, pp 251-260.

Harris, Rachel (2009) 'National Traditions and Illegal Religious Activities in Chinese Central Asia'. In: Nooshin, L., (ed.), Sounds of Power: Music, Politics and Ideology in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. Aldershot: Ashgate Press, pp 165-185.

Harris, Rachel (2009) 'Abdulla Mäjnun: Muqam Expert'. In: Rees, Helen, (ed.), Lives in Chinese Music. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Harris, Rachel (2007) 'Situating the Twelve Muqam: Between the Arab World and the Tang Court'. In: Bellér-Hann, Ildiko and Cesaro, M. C. and Harris, Rachel and Smith Finley, Joanne, (eds.), Situating the Uyghurs between China and Central Asia.. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp 69-88.

Harris, Rachel (2001) 'Cassettes, Bazaars and Saving the Nation: the Uyghur Music Industry in Xinjiang, China'. In: Craig, Timothy and King, Richard, (eds.), Global Goes Local: Popular Culture in Asia. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, pp 265-83.

Conference Items

Harris, Rachel (2014) 'Internet rumours and the changing Uyghur religious soundscape: the case of the Snake-Monkey Woman' In: Islamic Soundscapes of China, 10 January 2014, SOAS, University of London.

Harris, Rachel (2012) 'The Geographies of Ritual Practice in Rural Uyghur Society' In: Musical Geographies of Central Asia, 16-18 May 2012, SOAS, University of London.

Book Reviews

Harris, Rachel (2015) 'Review: The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History - RIAN THUM'. The China Quarterly, (222), pp 574-576.


Harris, Rachel (2009) 'Aq Beliq. London Uyghur Ensemble.'.


Harris, Rachel (2012) 'Borderlands: Wu Man and Master Musicians from the Silk Route'.


Han, Enze and Palmer, James and Barnett, Robert and Bequelin, Nicholas and Millward, James A. and Harris, Rachel and Leibold, James and Bulag, Uradyn E. and Hill, Nathan W. and Sperling, Elliot and Shakya, Tsering and Yeh, Emily T. (2014) 'Are ethnic tensions on the rise in China? A Chinafile conversation'.

Harris, Rachel (2009) 'Lessons for Schools, 1: China. The production of melody in Chinese teahouse music: “adding flowers to the skeleton”'.

Harris, Rachel (2005) 'Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region'.

Harris, Rachel (2004) 'Mäjnun: classical traditions of the Uyghurs'.

Harris, Rachel and Muhpul, Y. (2002) 'Music of the Uyghurs'.

Harris, Rachel (2001) 'Popular music of the Uyghurs'.

Harris, Rachel (2000) 'Uyghur Musicians from Xinjiang: Music from the Oasis towns of Central Asia'.


This list was last generated on Wednesday, 28th September 2022, 06:57 Europe/London.