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Dr Philip Burnett
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow



Philip Burnett is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow in the School of Arts and Creative Technologies. His research focuses on music and the British missionary movement of the 19th century, focusing specifically on Southeast Africa.

His Leverhulme project, entitled ‘Singing From the Same Hymn Sheet’, demonstrates the critical significance of the missionary hymn repertoire. He is particularly interested in how the musical language of hymns was localised and indigenised. The project combines archival work, fieldwork, and creative response to explore the role of missionary and religious culture and its legacies in present-day communities found along the Indian Ocean Coast of Africa. The project explores how, at different times and in different places, cultural and religious practices provided a means for people to resist, collaborate, reinterpret, and refashion themselves.

Philip received his PhD from the University of Bristol in 2020. His thesis, ‘Music and mission: A case study of the Anglican-Xhosa missions of the Eastern Cape, 1854-1880’, examined the role of music and soundscapes in the construction of missionary identities and the role that local musical practices played in shaping wider missionary culture.

He is also interested in the experiences of mission-educated Indigenous people who travelled to and studied in Britain during the 19th century, especially the Sierra-Leonean born, Oxford-educated Christian Cole, and the sons of amaXhosa chiefs from Southern Africa. He has presented at conferences in South Africa, Europe, the United Kingdom, and North America.

Outside of academia, Philip is an organist and choir trainer, and a very keen cricketer.



  • Music and Mission
  • Post/De-Colonialism and Music
  • Musicology and Archives
  • British music history outside Britain


Selected publications

Published/In Press

  • Burnett, Philip & Johnson-Williams, E. (2023), ‘Hymns Beyond the Congregation: Constructions of Identity and Legacies of Meaning’ (Special Section Introduction), in Yale Journal of Music and Religion, 8(2).
  • Burnett, Philip (2023), ‘Translating Race: Mission Hymns and the Challenge of Christian Identity’, in Yale Journal of Music and Religion, 8(2), 90-103.
  • Burnett, Philip (2023), ‘Singing the Lord’s songs: Hymns on the Eastern Cape Anglican-Xhosa Missions, c.1855–1869’, in South African Music Studies, 41–42, 199–217.
  • Burnett, Philip (2022), ‘Empowering the Invisible: The Archival Legacy of Christian Cole’, in Intersectional Encounters in the Nineteenth-Century Archive: New Essays on Power and Discourse, ed. by Rachel Bryant-Davies and Erin Johnson-Williams (Bloomsbury).
  • Burnett, Philip (2020), ‘Christian Frederick Cole’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press).

Submitted/Under Contract

  • Burnett, Philip and Johnson-Williams, Erin (2024), Hymns and Constructions of Race: Mobility, Agency, De/coloniality (under contract, Routledge).
  • Burnett, Philip (2024), ‘Indigenous Hymns and Hymn Writers: A Global Appraisal’, in The Oxford Handbook of Music Colonialism, ed. by Erin Johnson-Williams, Roe-Min Kok and Yvonne Liao (under contract, Oxford University Press).

In preparation

  • Burnett, Philip (2023/4), Sounding Converted: Music and Mission on the Eastern Cape Frontier

Contact details

Dr Philip Burnett
School of Arts and Creative Technologies
University of York
YO10 5GB

Tel: +44 (0)1904 32 8411