Four funded PhDs at The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen

Four funded PhDs at The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen


The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, is pleased to announce four PhD scholarships in the field of Ethnomusicology, starting in September 2017. Please see details below.


Sacred Singing among Scottish Travellers


Application Deadline: 22 March 2017


This topic focuses on expressions of Traveller identity in wider society through sacred music performance. The student would document and analyse current singing practices, contextualising them within wider Traveller culture and identity. The project builds on half a century of ethnographic work with Scottish Travellers, but focuses on contemporary sacred performance rather than earlier fieldworkers’ emphasis on the preservation of past culture. The research follows on from the Elphinstone Institute’s Culture and Traditions of Scottish Travellers Project, 2003–2005, which was led by the late Stanley Robertson, and ties into contemporary work in Ethnology, Sociology and Folklore. Candidates from within the Traveller community are particularly encouraged to apply. 
Further details can be found at:


Ethnomusicology – Traditional Music and Song Traditions in Scotland 


Application Deadline: 22 March 2017


This study aims to explore, document, and interpret current performance practice in Scottish, Scottish-derived, and hybrid musical traditions, drawing comparisons with education, practice and performance paradigms elsewhere. Since the mid-twentieth century, traditional music and song performance in Scotland has undergone radical changes in terms of transmission, performance practice, content, function and ideology. While traditional music performance in the past was largely non-professional and part of an oral tradition, it has become increasingly formalised and intellectualised, as well as hybridised through influences from other traditions. Traditional music learning in Scotland now largely takes place in schools, colleges, and universities. This study feeds into larger relevant research areas in ethnomusicology, such as the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, and the current University of Aberdeen ‘The North’ research theme. 

Potential subject areas may include: 
• Traditional music in formal education 
• Northern song traditions 
• Scottish-derived music and/or song traditions in arctic regions. 
• Scottish influence on indigenous non-Scottish performance traditions 
• Musical transformations around the North Atlantic rim 
• Transatlantic musical flow 
• Music and the sea. 


Further details can be found at:


Acknowledging Language: Unconscious Bilingualism in the Heartland of Scots

Application Deadline: 31 March 2017

The project will explore the nature and practice of unconscious bilingualism between Scots and Scottish Standard English on the Moray coast, centring on Banff and its surrounding communities, an area with strong Scots language use as well as a dynamic history of land-based population movement (along the rural coast and its agricultural hinterland) and seaward movement (in the fishing industry). Research will focus on diverse contexts in which Scots is spoken to varying degrees, including the workplace, community public spaces, primary schools, and Banff Academy, the main educational establishment in the region (and one which has strong Scots Language and Scottish Studies programmes, as well as a strong developing Public Engagement partnership with the Elphinstone Institute). Depending on the candidate, the research may take a number of different paths and may include the use of Scots in social media and other environments. 

The project will examine the role of the use of Scots in an educational setting, focusing on descriptive study, investigating evolving vocabularies and traditions of language use in our multimedia, multinational environment. The study will shed light on vocabulary, register, code switching contexts, and look at language acquisition and use by those originally from outside the community. 

A key part of the project is Public Engagement work within the network of communities surrounding Banff through which the paradigm of young people’s use of Scots will be compared with that of other parts of the North-East and across the generations.

Further details can be found at:

Traditional Gaelic song and the modern Gaelic revival

Application Deadline: 22 March 2017

It has been suggested that a growth in popularity in Gaelic song is driven both commercial interests and by Gaels themselves as part of a broader collective effort to (re)assert their cultural identity and to (re)claim their rich oral singing and storytelling tradition. As a consequence, modern Gaelic singing seems to function as an agent of language revitalisation as well as a form of cultural expression.

This research topic will explore the complex and recursive relationship between singers and their audiences, and between singers and their songs. In doing so, the research might focus on the learning and transmission of Gaelic song, repertoire selection and singing and performance styles of contemporary singers; or, on the effect of Gaelic song performance on the audience.

Applicants are encouraged to consider a comparative element between Scottish and Cape Breton Gaelic song cultures, and to traverse traditional scholarly fields of ethnomusicology, folklore studies, Gaelic studies, cultural studies, the sociology of language and language planning. The successful applicant will be offered Gaelic language training and will be supervised by Dr Marsaili MacLeod (Gaelic Studies) and Dr Thomas McKean (Director, Elphinstone Institute).

The School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture has a lively postgraduate community. Postgraduate students are offered a comprehensive programme of research skills training.


Funding Notes

Applicants will be considered for a University of Aberdeen ‘Elphinstone Scholarship’, which would cover tuition fees (Home, EU or Overseas). If selected, the Elphinstone Institute will offer the successful candidate a maintenance grant in line with AHRC standards, in addition to the fee relief.

Application to the PhD programme must be made via the university’s Postgraduate admissions system and it should be stated on the application that the candidate is applying for an Elphinstone scholarship along with the specific project applied for. A research proposal music be included with the application.

The admission system can be accessed below:
The deadline for applicants is 22nd March 2017. 
For further information, please contact 
Dr Frances Wilkins: