Exploring the musical, cultural and social identities of young Indians learning Western classical music in India

  • Ankna Arockiam

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis explores the narratives of the young people in India engaging with Western classical music as students, teachers, and performers. India’s association with Western classical music began in the early sixteenth century with the arrival of the first colonisers. Since then, Indians have engaged with Western classical music in different cultural, religious, and political settings. However, in contemporary India, the role of Western classical music, and those engaging with it has not been studied in detail. With the focus on the musical, cultural and social identities of young Indians learning Western classical music, the study aims to situate these narratives in the wider context of postcolonial India.

Data for this study was collected through semi-structured qualitative interviews conducted in the Indian cities of Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad. A constructivist and grounded theory approach through coding was adapted to analyse the data which highlighted the various factors that enabled the participants to pursue Western classical music in India. The emergent themes from the analysis highlight the variables and factors such as role of family, cultural and social capital. Postcolonial studies and musical identities research provided the framework for the discussion of the emergent themes from the analysis. The discussion unearths these themes, and the identities of the participants while situating them in postcolonial India with the aim of influencing current educational policies.

This study amplifies voices that are insufficiently represented in mainstream academia.
Date of Award13 Jun 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorAkhila Yechury (Supervisor) & Stephen Broad (Supervisor)


  • Postcolonialism
  • Western classical music in India
  • Musical identities
  • Cultural identities
  • Music in India

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