Jim Sykes

Associate Professor of Music
University of Pennsylvania

Jim Sykes is an Associate Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania. To date, his writing has explored the interrelations between sound, music, religion, and ethnicity in the eastern Indian Ocean region, with a focus on Sinhala and Tamil musicians in Sri Lanka and the Tamil diaspora in Singapore. His first book, The Musical Gift: Sonic Generosity in Post-War Sri Lanka, won the Bruno Nettl Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology. He has also co-edited the volumes Remapping Sound Studies (on Duke University Press) and Sounding the Indian Ocean (on the University of California Press). Before coming to Penn, Sykes taught at King’s College London and the University of Chicago (where he received his Ph.D.). He is currently working on two projects. The first is a study of Hindu temple and processional musics in Singapore set within histories of labor, migration, urban development, and cultural policy. The second emerges from his longstanding experience as a drummer in experimental rock bands and is about the idea of music as a “real job”, drawing on fieldwork with climate protest drummers in Berlin, value theory, and the notion of the Anthropocene.