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Tom Western

TomWestern-10m.jpgDr Tom Western


Twitter: @tom_western









Tom Western is Lecturer in Social and Cultural Geography at UCL, where his research and teaching centre on creative citizenships and migratory activisms. He was previously a Marie Curie fellow in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Oslo and an Early Career Fellow in Forced Migration Studies at the University of Oxford. Before that, Tom graduated with degrees in music and cultural studies from the Universities of Liverpool and Edinburgh, completing an AHRC-funded PhD at the latter in 2015.

Tom is also a musician and a sound recordist, and tries to combine sonic creativities and political engagement in all his activities. He works primarily in Athens, Greece, where he is a core team member of the Syrian and Greek Youth Forum (SGYF) – an international activism movement drawing on multiple backgrounds and perspectives, and focussed on building a platform for citizenship. Together they have developed methods of creative activism: using culture as a tool of political participation, of highlighting connections and shared histories, of finding commonalities and remaking the city. With his colleagues in SGYF, Tom runs the Active Citizens Sound Archive, which makes audible these politics and citizenship practices.


Forthcoming, 2021. National Phonography: Field Recording, Sound Archiving, and Producing the Nation in Music. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

In preparation. Sonopolis: Sound, Citizenship, and Migratory Activisms in Athens.


Special Issues

Forthcoming, 2021. ‘Migratory Musics’, edited with Florian Scheding. Arts.

2018. ‘Ethnomusicologies of Radio’, edited with Annette Davison and Tom Wagner. Ethnomusicology Forum, 27(3).


Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

2020. ‘Listening with Displacement: Sound, Citizenship, and Disruptive Representations of Migration’. Migration and Society, 3(1): 294-309.

2020. ‘Active Citizenship in Athens’. Co-authored with the Syrian and Greek Youth Forum. Forced Migration Review, special issue on ‘Cities and Towns’, 63: 14-15.

2019. ‘Start the Forgetting Machine! Online Sound Archives of European Traditional Music’. Yearbook for Traditional Music. 51: 325-330.

2018. ‘Introduction: Ethnomusicologies of Radio’. Ethnomusicology Forum, 27(3): 1-10.

2018. ‘Aural Borders, Aural Bordering’, ‘Who Is British Music?’, a roundtable convened by Florian Scheding. Twentieth-Century Music, 15(3): 481-487.

2016. ‘Securing the Aural Border: Fieldwork and Interference in Postwar BBC Audio Nationalism’. Sound Studies, 1(1): 77-97.

2014. ‘“The Age of the Golden Ear”: The Columbia World Library and Sounding Out Postwar Field Recording’. Twentieth-Century Music, 11(2): 275-300.


Book Chapters

Forthcoming, 2020. ‘Sonopolis: Activist Infrastructures and Sonic Citizenships in Athens’. In Audible Infrastructures: Music, Sound, Media, eds. Kyle Devine and Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier. Oxford: Oxford University Press. C.7,000 words.

Forthcoming, 2020. ‘Archival Silence: Friction, Remediation, and Purification in Online Sound Archives’. In Transcultural Music History, ed. Reinhard Strohm. Berlin: Verlag VWB. C.8,000 words.

2020. ‘Sounding the Shelter, Voicing the Squat: Sonic Politics of Refugee Shelter in Athens’. In Structures of Protection: Rethinking Refugee Shelter, eds. Tom Scott-Smith and Mark E. Breeze. New York: Berghahn, pp.123-134.

2018. ‘National Phonography in the Musical Past: Empire, Archive, and Overlapping Musical Migrations in Britain’. In Confronting the National in the Musical Past, eds. Elaine Kelly, Derek Scott, and Markus Mantere. New York: Routledge, pp.124-137.

2018. ‘Field Recording and the Production of Place’. In Critical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound, eds. Samantha Bennett and Eliot Bates. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, pp.23-40.


Blog Posts and Audio Work

2020. With Kareem Al Kabbani. ‘The Movement Exists in Voice and Sound’. Sonic Urbanism: Crafting a Political Voice, ed. Theatrum Mundi. &beyond

2020. ‘The Active Citizens Sound Archive’. Refugee Hosts blog –

2019. ‘Refugee Feedback: Sounding Out Everyday Experiences of Displacement’. Rethinking Refuge, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford.

2019. ‘Loudspeakers / Loud Speakers’. Mediterranean Music Studies blog, International Council of Traditional Music.

2017. With Said Azim Karimi, Muhammad Sukarno Kurdi, Georgios Sourmelis, and Sofia Zafeiriou. ‘ΤΣΣΣΣ ΤΣΣΣ ΤΣΣ ΣΣΣ: Summer in Athens – A Sound Essay’. In Representations of Displacement, ed. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh.


Works in Progress

‘Refugee Feedback: Migratory Activisms and Dissonant Citizenships in Athens’.

‘Amplification, Co-Voicing, Unlearning: Experimenting with Collaborative Ethnography’. Co-authored with Penny Travlou.

My research centres on sound, citizenship, activisms, anticolonialisms, creativities, migrations, and borders.


I work in Athens, Greece, where my research hears the connections between the political voice and the politics of space. I listen to the ways in which citizenships are performed and protested in sound, and how people assert sonic belonging in the face of denied asylum, racialised persecution, and European border politics that play out in urban space. Migratory activisms turn the city into a site of shared struggle: a sounding board of solidarity, a resonance chamber of resistance. And the city and its citizenships are never fixed or finished, but are constantly being crafted, voiced, and made audible at street level. This research forms the basis of a book project, titled Sonopolis: Sound, Citizenship, and Migratory Activisms in Athens.

Listening as Method

This work aims to develop methods of collaborative research that centre on listening. A new sound piece – ‘The Movement Exists in Voice and Sound’ (forthcoming October 2020), recorded and produced with Kareem Al Kabbani in Athens – amplifies vocal politics, revolutionary rhythms, and anticolonial echoes around the Mediterranean. A recent article, ‘Listening with Displacement’, hears how sounds are always moving, and can help us rethink society itself through movement. And two forthcoming articles – on ‘Refugee Feedback’ and on ‘Ethnography as Amplification’ – seek to further develop these methods, thinking with sound and listening to hear transnational activisms, citizenships, and spaces of resistance.

National Phonography

My doctoral research project explored how ethnographic sound recordings were used to construct nations and borders in postwar Europe, and how histories of migration were silenced in the process. A forthcoming book -- National Phonography: Field Recording, Sound Archiving, and Producing the Nation in Music (Bloomsbury Academic Press) -- tells this history, tracing a continental and colonial trade of sounds and ideas, and showing how sonic citizenries were constructed and contested.

Producing public-facing research is a key part of my work. I am currently involved in the following projects and collaborations:

I have also produced numerous sound pieces and audio documentaries, and am currently preparing radio programmes and museum installations based on my work with colleagues in Athens.

I teach on the MSc in Global Migration and on modules across the BA/BSc in Geography:


GEOG0015 Global Events

GEOG0150 Space and Society


Migratory Activisms, Creative Citizenships

I have previously taught at the universities of Oslo, Oxford and Edinburgh – at the latter I was shortlisted for the ‘Best Overall Teacher’ prize at the Edinburgh University Students’ Association Teaching Awards in 2018.

I’m very happy to hear from prospective students interested in working on the following and related topics: cultural geographies; activist methods; creative citizenships; music and sound cultures; collective and relational geographies; migrations and borders; anticolonialisms; urban struggles.