Jim Sykes is an ethnomusicologist and drummer whose research explores the profound interrelations between sound, modernity, personhood, sacred and public space, and histories of violence and identity across the Indian Ocean region. His dissertation, completed in 2011 at the University of Chicago, is a study of Sri Lankan musicians in two regions divided by war and devastated by the 2004 tsunami. Funded by the Fulbright-Hays DDRA and Wenner-Gren Foundation, the project involved fieldwork with musicians who are ritual drummers, former child soldiers, tsunami orphans, rock musicians, and activists who use a history of musical relations between communities to foster peaceful coexistence.
Before moving to Chicago for his postgraduate studies, Jim obtained a BA in Music from Boston University and pursued graduate study in philosophy and sociology of science in New York University’s interdisciplinary Gallatin program.
Selected recent publications
Forthcoming, 2013. “Culture as Freedom: Musical ‘Liberation’ in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka”. Ethnomusicology.
Forthcoming, 2013. “Beyond the Musicology of Disaster: A Sri Lankan Music History for the Post- War Period.” Music of War, edited Benjamin Harbart and Gwyneth Bravo, eds. (Routledge).
Forthcoming, 2013. “Sound as Promise and Threat: Drumming, Collective Violence and the British Raj in Colonial Ceylon”. In Biddle, Ian and Kirsten Gibson, eds., Noise, Audition, Aurality: Histories of the Sonic World(s) of Europe, 1500-1945 (Ashgate).
Forthcoming, 2013. Review of Music as History in Tamil Nadu, by T.K. Venkatasubramanian (Primus Books, 2010), in Studies in History.
Forthcoming, 2013. Review of Indian Tranmsigrants: Malaysian and Comparative Essays, by Ravindra K. Jain (Three Essays Collective, 2009), in Asian Journal of Social Science.
Selected recent presentations
“Islands, Oceans and the Non-State: Musicology Without Borders”. Colloquium Lecture, King’s College London, 21 November 2012.
“Music and the Not-Self: Buddhism’s Challenge to ‘Musical Meaning’”. RMA Music and Philosophy Conference, London, 21 July 2012.
“Indians at Home: Towards a Singaporean Indian Music History.” Musical Transitions to Colonialism Conference, King’s College London, 19 May 2012.
“Voice, Destruction and Rebirth in Sri Lanka.” British Association for Asian Studies annual conference, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, 13 April 2012.
“Philosophies of Music in the Wake of Indenture: Aesthetics and Labour in a Southeast Asian Context.” Invited Speaker, King’s India Institute, King’s College London, 12 March 2012.
“Hearing Like a State: Sri Lanka and the Ethics of Musicology.” Invited Speaker, Institute for Musical Research, London, 20 January 2012.
“Malaysia and the South Asian Modern: Tamil Musics, Coloniality, Labour.” Society for Ethnomusicology, Philadelphia, 17 November 2011.
“Tamil Musicality across the Indian Ocean.” Invited speaker, Oxford University, 10 November 2011.
Invisible Things, album recorded by Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, John Zorn, Herbie Hancock).
Invisible Things, Home IS the Sun (Porter Records, 2012). Features U.S. Maple’s Mark Shippy.
Grooms, Prom (Kanine Records, 2011)
Boadrum 77 (DVD, Thrill Jockey, 2008)
Parts and Labor, Groundswell (JMZ, 2003)