Miss Shanika Ranasinghe

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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: 'Thank You for the Music': ABBA Fandom in the Twenty-First Century


On 27th April 2018, the Swedish pop group ABBA announced they would release new music, following a 35-year hiatus. The news was a shock – particularly to their fans, most of whom had given up on the idea of new songs. ABBA had been noticeably quiet since they went on their “break” in 1982; yet the fandom got stronger, with ABBA’S popularity increasing from the 1990s onwards. ABBA Gold (1992) has sold more records in the UK than The Beatles’ album Sergeant Pepper, whilst the Mamma Mia! musical (1999) has an audience of over 60 million people worldwide and the films (2008 and 2018) attracted large global audiences. My PhD thesis examines this extraordinary phenomenon of twenty-first century ABBA fandom through rich, dialogic ethnography. It asks questions such as: who is perpetuating the music and legacy of ABBA – the fans, ABBA, or someone else? – and for what purposes and end goals? Who do ABBA really belong to – to ABBA, their fans, or some other group? – and how have ABBA and their music been appropriated over the years? The thesis is important to wider anthropological, ethnomusicological and fan studies discourses in its exploration of ABBA fandom as a gift economy. By looking at how fans give to ABBA (historically and at present) and vice versa, the thesis brings to light the expectations and pressures on both sides, within this dynamic and ever-evolving relationship – which, I argue, is real, mutual and valid, as opposed to pathological or para-social.

Educational background

2014-2023: PhD Music - Royal Holloway, University of London (supervisors: Professor Anna Morcom (UCLA) and Dr Shzr Ee Tan (RHUL)). 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.

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