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Centre for Creative Ethnography

Stephen Millar

Stephen Millar

I’m an anthropologist and ethnomusicologist whose research and teaching focuses on music, conflict, and cultures of resistance. At an undergraduate level, I teach introductory courses exploring what it means to be human, as well as key debates within anthropology. I also teach a specialised module on the interconnections between music and power, and postgraduate courses on ethnomusicology and the anthropology of conflict.

I’ve written on topics ranging from football culture and state censorship to the role of music in engaging hard-to-reach young people, and from music as (post)colonial struggle to community experiences of sectarianism. My work has been published in a broad range of academic journals and I am co-editor of Football and Popular Culture (Routledge, 2021) and Football, Politics, and Identity (Routledge, 2021).

My first book Sounding Dissent: Rebel Songs, Resistance, and Irish Republicanism (University of Michigan Press, 2020) explores how Irish republicans have used rebel songs to resist against the hegemonic power of the British state. Drawing on three years of sustained fieldwork within the rebel music scene, the book challenges the parameters of the postcolonial and reconceptualises political resistance through sound, using rebel songs to understand the history of political violence in Ireland.

My current book project examines the interconnection between Ulster loyalist songs and political violence in Northern Ireland from the Troubles to the present. The project unravels the role songs play in inciting violence during war and legitimising structural violence during peace, examining their embeddedness in paramilitarism and inter-communal conflict. It explores why musicians and audiences continue to consume loyalist songs, and how, in the wake of Brexit, such songs form part of a cultural nostalgia for multiple and intersecting imagined pasts, which resonate with the rise of populism in other parts of the world.

I’m currently building an online archive of political music-making called Songs of the Northern Ireland Conflict (SoNIC), which will show how political songs of diverging persuasions commented on and connected with the social and political landscape in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and how such songs continue to shape present-day issues and identities.


Some relevant outputs:

Book, Sounding Dissent Rebel Songs, Resistance, and Irish Republicanism (University of Michigan Press, 2020)

Article on loyalist political songs for Race & Class (open access)

Article on using music to engage hard-to-reach young people in Scotland for British Journal of Music Education (open access)

Podcast on ‘Music, Conflict and Culture’ in Northern Ireland for Shrapnel

Songs of the Northern Ireland Conflict (SoNIC) Archive,