Klisala Harrison
  • Langelandsgade 139, 1580, 416

    8000 Aarhus C



Research activity per year

Personal profile


I am an ethnomusicologist, specifically a music anthropologist, who is interested in music’s relationships to inequalities of health and well-being, climate change impacts, and poverty in the Arctic and North America. I conduct and theorize social anthropology studies concerned with solving concrete social and environmental problems through music and the arts.

Currently, I am leading the consortium research project Musical Climate Art for a Sound Future, in Greenland. The project investigates how to use scientific, traditional, and local knowledges to support traditional and new music-related livelihoods in meeting climate and related social changes in the Arctic. You can read more about the project here.

My passion to study music and health sprang from my long-standing research on music and theatre practices in one of North America’s poorest urban neighbourhoods, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. People living in the Downtown Eastside suffered short life-length as well as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and addictions. I did my research through participant observation as a violinist, percussionist, and music organizer in culturally diverse contexts of popular music, pop opera and Indigenous drumming.  A result of this research, my award-winning book Music Downtown Eastside: Human Rights and Capability Development through Music in Urban Poverty (Oxford, 2020), examines interrelationships of poverty, music and human rights in the context of urban redevelopment, particularly gentrification.

Over my career, I have published on other specific issues of music and inequality that have emerged directly from my ethnographic research sites. Since the early 2010s, I have conducted research together with Inuit of Greenland and Sámi of Finland, Sweden, and Norway, for example in my project Music for Health and Well-being in Arctic Indigenous Cultures and a Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies fellowship on music in Sámi theatre. The collaborations, extending to international academics, led to new insights on music’s relationships to social determinants of health, the social potential of music for addiction recovery, and music making as a response to trauma (one project also included asylum seekers and refugees in the EU).

I base these and my other works, in part, on my theorization of applied or activist ethnomusicology as a field especially in relation to values. I was lead editor of Applied Ethnomusicology: Historical and Contemporary Approaches (2010), and edited two other monographs on the field, in English and Mandarin (2016, 2018).

My professional responsibilities support my current research interests. I serve as co-chair of the Medical Ethnomusicology Special Interest Group of the Society for Ethnomusicology (USA), and I am the liaison for Denmark to Musical Care International.

I am delighted to share my professional and research knowledge with students. I welcome master’s and PhD students who are interested in activist approaches to music in and as culture, especially in relation to concrete social and environmental issues.


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