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Dr Stephen Millar

Dr Stephen Millar

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

School of Music

Room 0.17, 33-37 Corbett Road, Cathays, Cardiff, CF10 3EB


I am currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow based in the School of Music. My academic work concentrates on the interconnection between music and politics, the aesthetics of ideology, and how this is transmitted through popular culture. I am interested in community music-making and engagement; music, health, and wellbeing; debates around cultural appropriation; state censorship; and the use of music in conflict, particularly in Northern Ireland.

My monograph Sounding Dissent: Rebel Songs, Resistance, and Irish Republicanism features in the new and innovative Music and Social Justice series with University of Michigan Press. The book explores how Irish republicans have used rebel songs to resist against the hegemonic power of the British state, using music as a means to understand the history of political violence in Ireland and how this continues to inform and influence the present. 

I have written articles on topics ranging from music and postcolonialism, to the censorship of football chants, and from music and wellbeing to the cultural politics of indie rock. My articles have been published in a broad range of academic journals, including the British Journal of Music Education, Echo, Health and Social Care in the CommunityJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Managing Sport and Leisure, Music & PoliticsPopular MusicPopular Music and Society, and Scottish Affairs

Prior to joining Cardiff University, I taught at Queen’s University Belfast and University College Dublin. I have also held research positions at Glasgow Caledonian University, the University of Limerick, and the University of Stirling.



2017: Ph.D. in Anthropology, Queen’s University Belfast.
2013: M.Phil. in Music, University of Cambridge.
2011: B.Mus. in Music, University of Glasgow.⠀⠀

Honours and awards

2018-21: Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, Cardiff University. 
2016-17: Leverhulme Study Abroad Studentship, University of Limerick.
2013-16: AHRC Doctoral Studentship, Queen’s University Belfast.
2012-13: AHRC Masters Studentship, University of Cambridge.

Professional memberships

British Association for Irish Studies
British Forum for Ethnomusicology
International Association for the Study of Popular Music 
International Council for Traditional Music 
Society for Ethnomusicology

Academic positions

2018-Present: Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Cardiff University.

2017-18: Postdoctoral Fellow and Lead Researcher on COOL Music, Glasgow Caledonian University.    

2017: Associate Lecturer, University College Dublin.    

2016-17: Visiting Research Fellow, University of Limerick.    

2015-17: Associate Lecturer, Queen’s University Belfast.    

2014-15: Research Assistant, University of Stirling.

Speaking engagements

2020: 'Rebel Songs'. Drivetime, RTÉ Radio 1.

2019: ‘Rebel Songs: Music, Peace and Conflict Beyond the Troubles’. Mitchell Institute Speaker Series, Queen’s University Belfast. 

2019: ‘From Belfast to the Somme (and back again): Legitimising Loyalist Paramilitaries through Political Song’. Music Department Seminar Series, University of Oxford.

2019: ‘The Role of Music Scholarship in a Post-Truth World’. International Council of Traditional Music, Ireland. University College Dublin.

2018: ‘“COOL Music”: A Bottom-Up Music Intervention for Hard-to-Reach Young People in Scotland’. Glasgow Science Festival. Glasgow Caledonian University.

2017: ‘Music, Sport, and Freedom of Expression’. Sectarianism and its Relation to Hate Crime. Northern Ireland Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition. Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast.

2015: ‘Let the People Sing? Irish Rebel Songs, Sectarianism, and Scotland’s Offensive Behaviour Act’. Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne. 

2015: ‘Performing Protest’. Local Musicking in Cross-Cultural Perspective Research Group, Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities, Queen’s University Belfast.

2013: ‘Catholic Alterity? Music, Nationalism, and Sectarianism in Scotland’. AHRC/BBC Collaborative Workshop on Scottish Identity, BBC Broadcasting House, London.

Committees and reviewing

2018-Present: Reviewer for the journals Ethnomusicology, Ethnomusicology Forum, MUSICultures, Popular MusicGeoforum, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Managing Sport and Leisure, and Social Enterprise Journal.

2017: Conference co-organiser, Football and Popular Culture, University of Limerick.

2015: Conference co-organiser, Music and Mobilities, University of Oxford.

2014-16: Student committee member, Royal Musical Association.








My current research project focuses on the role Ulster loyalist songs played during the Northern Ireland Troubles (1968-1998). 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.

Before joining Cardiff University, I was Lead Researcher on the COOL Music project at Glasgow Caledonian University. The project engaged groups of hard-to-reach young people through participatory music-making, offering alternative approaches to education and literacy, so as to improve their health and wellbeing. Working with community music practitioners in multiply-deprived areas of Scotland, the project helped participants dealing with trauma, while developing transferable skills for further study and future employment.

I was awarded my Ph.D. from Queen’s University Belfast, where I conducted research on the cultural politics of Irish republicanism in contemporary Northern Ireland. This formed the basis of my first monograph, entitled Sounding Dissent: Rebel Songs, Resistance, and Irish Republicanism (University of Michigan Press, 2020). Combining historical, musical, and ethnographic methods, the book explores how Irish republicans have used rebel songs to resist against the hegemonic power of the British state, using music as a means to understand the history of political violence in Ireland and how this continues to inform and influence the present.