Dr James Butterworth

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow; Non-Stipendiary Junior Research Fellow, Lady Margaret Hall


Social and cultural study of music, community music, music ethnography, ethics/morality, Peruvian music and society, hip hop in the UK, music in youth centres, music in prisons/criminal justice.


Dr Butterworth joined the Faculty of Music at the University of Oxford in 2016 as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, having previously been a Postdoctoral Research Associate on the AHRC-funded ‘Performing Hip Hop Englishness’ project at the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge. He received my PhD and MMus from Royal Holloway University of London and my BA Music from the University of Cambridge.

James’ research involves the social and cultural study of music and focusses variously on music and society in Peru, hip hop in social and educational programmes in the UK and music in prisons/criminal justice. He has published several articles/chapters, including in the journals Ethnomusicology Forum and Culture, Theory and Critique. James is currently preparing a monograph that builds on his doctoral research on the huayno music industry in Peru and, with Dr Richard Bramwell (Loughborough University), is preparing a monograph and a number of articles on rap culture within various state-funded institutions in England.

During 2017-18, James is also Principal Investigator for the project ‘Music, Transformation and Rehabilitation in UK Criminal Justice’. The project – funded by the John Fell Fund at the University of Oxford – examines how music is used and conceptualised as a tool for transformation by organisations working across crime prevention, prisons and probation/resettlement schemes.

James has organised a range of conferences and events, including ‘Music in Prisons, Detention and Resettlement: Towards a Research Agenda’ (University of Oxford, in association with SIMM), the ‘International Hip Hop Conference and Festival’ (University of Cambridge), a symposium for David Lammy MP’s Review on racial bias in the criminal justice system (University of Cambridge), a symposium on ‘Love and Sentimentalism in Popular Music’ (Royal Holloway) and the inaugural joint Royal Musical Association/British Forum for Ethnomusicology conference on ‘Music, Circulation and the Public Sphere’ (University of Manchester).

Alongside his research, James has given lectures and tutorials at a range of institutions, including Royal Holloway, King’s College London, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, City University London and HM Prison Full Sutton. At Oxford, he is the convenor for courses on ‘Music and Capitalism’ and ‘Music and Ethics’.