Shanika Ranasinghe

Shanika Ranasinghe, MA Music (Oxon), MA Music (London), A.T.C.L.


Personal profile

Personal profile

I am currently a part-time PhD student in the Department of Music at Royal Holloway, having previously attended Goldsmiths and the University of Oxford (see Educational Background for more information). A reticent performer, I play piano (diploma standard) and violin (Grade 8 standard) and can sing alto. I am passionate about music education and outreach.

Research interests

Working thesis title: "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! a [f]an after midnight": a Voyage through ABBA fandom


In 2017, ABBA began secretly recording new songs together – their first since 1982. During that ‘35-year-gap’, and despite their absence, various ABBA-related phenomena increased the band’s popularity. The loyalty of their sizeable LGBTQ+ fanbase throughout the ‘dark days’ of 1980s ABBA fandom, together with various ‘camp/kitsch’ ABBA-related manifestations in the early 1990s, subsequently led to official ABBA ventures. The Gold: Greatest Hits compilation album (1992) – plus the stage show, Mamma Mia! (1999), and its subsequent film adaptations (2008, 2018) - resulted in ABBA continuing to permeate public consciousness well into the 21st century; the arguable culmination of this being ABBA’s first studio album in almost-40 years, Voyage (2021). This thesis draws on the ensuing ‘waves’ of ABBA fandom to conceptualise music fans and their practices. Using dialogic, hybrid ethnography, it asks: what makes someone an ABBA fan and is there a better way to interrogate ABBA’s enduring popularity than by talking only about core fans? How much of fandom is knowledge and love of ‘the music’, compared to more ‘generic’ appreciation? How do ABBA fans understand and interact with terminology used about them? Do ABBA fans have any unifying characteristics beyond ABBA? Who do ABBA really belong to nowadays: to ABBA, their fans, or someone else? Using Halberstam’s (2011) ‘queer failure’ and ‘low theory’, the thesis demonstrates that ABBA fail to stand up to conventional academic and media scrutiny and their values of ‘virtuosity’, ‘greatness’, ‘seriousness’, and 21st century chart success – and therein lies their strength

Educational background

2014-2024: PhD Music - Royal Holloway, University of London (supervisors: Dr Tim Summers and Dr Henry Stobart). Result: Pending

2010-2012: MA Music (Ethnomusicology) - Goldsmiths, University of London (supervisors: Dr Barley Norton and Professor Keith Negus). Result: Merit.

2007-2010: BA Music - Worcester College, University of Oxford (dissertation supervisor: Martin Stokes). Result: 2.2.


  • Ethnomusicology/world music
  • Popular music
  • Social & cultural anthropology