SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

Professor Rachel Harris

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


Rachel Harris
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:
Thursdays, 11am-1pm


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 have fifteen years’ experience of teaching and doctoral supervision in the discipline of ethnomusicology, and have published two monographs and co-edited three volumes on music (Gender in Chinese Music, 2013, the ethnomusicology textbook, Pieces of the Musical World, 2015, and Theory and Practice in the Music of the Islamic World, 2018). I co-edited the journal Ethnomusicology Forum between 2004 and 2007. I currently co-convene the Middle East and Central Asia Music Forum, and I am series editor for the Routledge SOAS Studies in Music Series.

My current research interests focus on intangible cultural heritage, music and identity formation, soundscapes and state projects of territorialization. I work in applied ways with performance and transmission projects, including concerts, workshops, and recording projects, and worked as consultant for the Aga Khan Music Initiative (2006-16).


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


My first monograph (Singing the Village, 2004) 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. I co-edited a volume on the place of Uyghur culture and society on the borders of Central Asia and China (Situating the Uyghurs, 2007). My second monograph (The Making of a Musical Canon in Chinese Central Asia, 2008) considers nationalist projects of canonization, and the transformation of local traditions into national repertoires. I have also 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.

I led 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 regions of China, two international conferences, a project website, and a series of publications including a forthcoming edited volume Ethnographies of Islam in China. My forthcoming 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.

My current research project, supported by the British Academy Sustainable Development Fund (2018-2020), works to revitalize expressive culture amongst Uyghur communities in Kazakhstan. I am involved with advocacy initiatives for Uyghur rights @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
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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 and Jaschok, Maria (2015) 'Introduction: Sounding Islam in China'. Performing Islam, (3) 1-2, pp 3-13.

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

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, R. (2002) 'Mazar festivals of the Uyghurs: Music, Islam and the Chinese State'. British Journal of Ethnomusicology, (vol. 1), pp 101-118.

Harris, Rachel (2000) 'From Shamanic Ritual to Karaoke: the (trans)migrations of a Chinese folksong'. CHIME, (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 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) '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. [Forthcoming]

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 Rowan, Pease, (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, H., (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: Beller-Hann, I. and Cesaro, M. C. and Harris, R. and Smith Finley, J., (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, Tim and King, Richard, (eds.), Global Goes Local: Popular Culture in Asia. University of British Columbia Press (Vancouver), 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 Sunday, 1st August 2021, 12:02 Europe/London.