Dr Yvonne Liao

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Faculty of Music; Early Career Fellow, TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities); Postdoctoral Associate in the Humanities, St Cross College

BA (Oxon), MA (SOAS University of London), MA (Columbia), PhD (KCL)


Postcolonial music studies and global thought-practices, with a focus on port cities of the twentieth century; critical fresh perspectives on western music history and historiography in post-European settings and contexts; archives and music research


Yvonne is a music historian primarily of colonialism and its effects in the twentieth century, and of their implications for scholarly advocacy and intervention in the twenty-first. Her current book project, Imperfect Global: Thinking European Music Cultures in Shanghai and Hong Kong, 1897–1997 centres on the musicological production of ‘global’ knowledge and its articulations of thought-practice in new ethical terms. Developing in parallel with the monograph is her co-editorship, with Erin Johnson-Williams and Roe-Min Kok, of The Oxford Handbook of Music Colonialism, a multi-essay volume contracted in 2020 with Oxford University Press. Her research to date has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the Royal Musical Association and King’s College London; and in the collaborative interdisciplinary arena, she is a co-recipient of a TORCH Network Grant for Colonial Ports and Global History (CPAGH; more below).

Yvonne rejoined the Faculty in 2017, having read Music as an undergraduate at Christ Church (1999–2002) and graduated with first class honours. In her funded position as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow she is also an Early Career Fellow at TORCH and a Non-Stipendiary Postdoctoral Associate in the Humanities at St Cross College. In addition to MA degrees from SOAS University of London and Columbia University, Yvonne worked as a project and marketing manager at Naxos and Universal Music Hong Kong, before returning in 2012 to the higher education sector and completing in 2016 a PhD in Musicology on music and municipality in Shanghai of the 1930s and 1940s. Her doctoral thesis, for which archival sources in Chinese, English, French and German were examined anew, was given 1st Honorary Mention for the International Musicological Society’s first Outstanding Dissertation Award in 2018. An article originating from the same research was published in The Musical Quarterly and awarded the Royal Musical Association’s Jerome Roche Prize in 2017 for a distinguished article by an early career scholar.

At the Faculty, Yvonne supervises a range of dissertations and teaches the MSt electives, Music and Global History, and, Archives and Music Research, having also taught undergraduate modules at King’s College London and at Hong Kong Baptist University. In terms of professional service, she is a founding co-organiser, with Olivia Bloechl and Gabriel Solis, of the American Musicological Society’s Global Music History Study Group; an Early Career Representative on the TORCH Management Committee (2019–20); and an external PhD supervisor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

A keen advocate of musicology as an intersectional collaborative practice in the humanities, Yvonne co-founded the TORCH-funded interdisciplinary network, Colonial Ports and Global History (CPAGH) with three historians, a social anthropologist and a fellow musicologist. The network’s mission, public engagement and other past and upcoming activities are detailed here: https://torch.ox.ac.uk/cpagh


Johnson-Williams, E., R-M Kok, and Y. Liao (eds). The Oxford Handbook of Music Colonialism. Under contract with Oxford University Press.

Liao, Y. ‘Post/Colonial Bach.’ In Rethinking Bach, edited by Bettina Varwig. Forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Liao, Y. ‘“A Foreign Cosmopolitanism”: Treaty Port Shanghai, Ad Hoc Municipal Ensembles, and an Epistemic Modality.’ In Music History and Cosmopolitanism, edited by Derek Scott, Anastasia Belina-Johnson, and Kaarina Kilpiö, 162–74. Routledge, 2019.

Liao, Y. ‘Empires In Rivalry: Opera Concerts and Foreign Territoriality in Shanghai, 1930–45.’ In Operatic Geographies: The Environment of Opera and the Opera House, edited by Suzanne Aspden, 148–61. University of Chicago Press, 2019.

Liao, Y. ‘“Die gute Unterhaltungsmusik”: Landscape, Refugee Cafés, and Sounds of “Little Vienna” in Wartime Shanghai.’ The Musical Quarterly 98: 4 (2016): 350–94.


Liao, Y. ‘“Chinatown” and Global Operatic Knowledge.’ Review Article on Nancy Yunhwa Rao, Chinatown Opera Theater in North America (University of Illinois Press), Cambridge Opera Journal 31: 2–3 (2020): 280–90.



Twitter @yyj_liao