Professor Anna Morcom

Personal profile

Anna Morcom studied Ethnomusicology and Hindi at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) (1993-1996), and then a PhD on Hindi film songs (SOAS) (1998-2002). She subsequently completed extended fieldwork in Tibet under a Leverhulme Study Abroad Studentship. She joined the Royal Holloway Music Department as a Research Council UK Academic Fellow in 2005.

Anna Morcom specialises in music and dance in India and Tibet from diverse and ethnographically-grounded perspectives that seek to understand modernity and the contemporary world and the implication on peoples and musical cultures of the changes they bring. This encompasses traditional musics (folk and classical) and popular musics. Her research focuses on phases of modernity ranging from nation building to globalization and neoliberalism, and spans issues of politics, ideology and inequality as well as media and marketisation.

Her work includes three monographs, Unity and discord: Music and politics in contemporary Tibet (2004, Tibet Information network); Hindi film songs and the cinema (2007, Ashgate, SOAS Musicology Series); and Illicit worlds of Indian dance: Cultures of exclusion (2013 Hurst and Oxford University Press), published in South Asia as Courtesans, bar girls and dancing boys: Illicit worlds of Indian dance (2014, Hachette India), as well as articles published in a range of peer-reviewed journals such as Consumption, Markets and Culture and South Asian Film and Media. She guest-edited a special issue of Ethnomusicology Forum on ‘Screened music: Global perspectives’ in 2009 with Miguel Mera. See link to download select publications.

Her current research focuses on music, economy, and capitalism, growing from her 2013-14 Leverhulme Research Fellowship, ‘Neoliberalism and the transformations of musical culture in Tibet and beyond’. Recent publications include articles in Popular Music (Locating music in capitalism: A view from exile Tibet) and Ethnomusicology (Terrains of Bollywood dance: Neoliberalism and the transformation of cultural economies), and a guest-edited feature on FocaalBlog with Patrick Neveling, Music and capitalism. Anna is the founder and current chair of SEM’s Special Interest Group on Economic Ethnomusicology. 

Illicit worlds of Indian dance was awarded the Allan Merriam prize, the Society of Ethnomusicology’s (SEM) book award, as well as the Marcia Herndon prize of the Gender and Sexualities section of SEM, in 2014.

Anna Morcom has been interviewed on Illicit worlds of Indian dance by various UK media including BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed (link), and by India-based media including the national newspaper, The Hindu (link), the leading social justice magazine, Tehelka (link), and the independent news, information and entertainment organisation Scroll (link)

She served on the British Forum of Ethnomusicology (BFE) Committee from 2012-2015 and is a member of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) Council and the Ethnomusicology Committee of the Royal Anthropological Institute


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