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Department of Social Anthropology



Christina Woolner is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, working on a project titled “The poetry of politics and politics of poetry: transforming political subjectivities in Somaliland.”

Dr. Woolner recently completed her PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, where she wrote a dissertation titled The Labour of Love Songs: Voicing Intimacy in Somaliland. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork with poets, musicians, singers, music-lovers and love-suffering audiences in Hargeysa, her dissertation explores how love songs distill, perform and open space for intimacy – in the way they are produced, circulated, debated, listened to, performed, and put to work in public and private settings. Her dissertation paid particular attention to the way that different ideas about the voice, and different practices of voicing intersect to enable intimate relationships and subjectivities.

Dr. Woolner’s current research project takes her interest in voice and voicing into the realm of Somali political orature. In what is often called a “nation of poets”, she will be focusing on a recent poetry debate chain known as “miimley” – a series of poems that criticized and defended Somaliland’s government – to explore gendered and generational shifts in ideas of “voice”, subjectivity and political belonging.

Dr. Woolner’s current research builds on a long-held interest in the role of storytelling and voice in war and peacebuilding processes. She has worked as an instructor/lecturer in peace and conflict studies at universities in Canada and Somaliland, as well as a researcher at Project Ploughshares, a Canadian NGO that monitors armed conflict and the armaments industry. She holds a BA in Global Studies and Religion & Culture (Wilfrid Laurier University), an MA in International Peace Studies (University of Notre Dame), and an MPhil in Social Anthropology (Cambridge).

To hear about some of Dr. Woolner’s research, listen to her episode of Camthropod – Hiddo Dhawr: Singing Love in(to) Somaliland – the Department’s podcast series.


Anthropology of popular culture; poetry, music and ethnomusicology; anthropology of war, violence and peacebuilding; storytelling, narrativity and voice; peace and conflict studies.


Journal articles

2022.  Woolner, C. J. Listening to love: Aural attention, vocal iconicity and intimacy in Somaliland. American Ethnologist, 49 (2)

2021.  Woolner, C. J. Out of Time” and “Out of Tune”: Reflections of an Oud Apprentice in Somaliland, Ethnomusicology, 65 (2) 10.5406/ethnomusicology.65.2.0259

2016. Woolner, C. J. Education and extraversion: naming, valuing and contesting 'modern' and 'indigenous' knowledge in post-war Somaliland. Journal of Eastern African Studies, 10 (3), 413-433.



Love Songs in Motion: Voicing Intimacy in Somaliland. Chicago: Chicago University Press. (in press, 2023). 


Book chapters

2018.  Woolner, C. J. Singing love in(to) Somaliland: love songs, 'heritage preservation' and the shaping of post-war publics. In Music and dance research in Eastern Africa: current research in humanities and social sciences, eds. K. Kiiru and M. Mutonya. Nairobi: IFRA and Twaweza Communications.

2012. Sharify-Funk, M. & C. J. Woolner. Women, religion and peace. In Ashgate research companion on religion and conflict resolution, ed. L. Marsden. Ashgate Publishing.

2011.  Funk, N. C. & C. J. Woolner. Religion and Peace and Conflict Studies. In Critical Issues in Peace and Conflict Studies: Theory, Practice and Pedagogy, eds. T. Matyok, J. Seheni and S. Byrne. Rowman and Littlefield.


Encyclopedia entries

2019.  Woolner, C. Hees [Somali popular song] In The Bloomsbury encyclopedia of popular music of the world, volume XII: genres - Sub-Saharan Africa, eds. H. Feldman, D. Horn, J. Shepherd and G. Keilich. Bloomsbury Publishers.



2016 (19 July).  Howland, C. & C. Woolner. Universities must protect PhDs doing risky fieldwork: Here's how. The Guardian. Available online at:


Other media

Hiddo Dhawr: Singing Love in(to) Somaliland. Camthropod, Episode 5.

Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa. Ostinato Records.
(assisted with project coordination and liner notes).

Teaching and Supervisions



SAN4: Ethnographic Areas (Africa) – lectures and seminars on Youth, Popular Culture
SAN11: Anthropology of Digital, Auditory and Visual Worlds – lectures on Sound, Voice and Listening
SAN13: Gender, Kinship and Care – lecture/seminar on listening, intimacy and care

Undergraduate supervision

SAN1: Social Anthropology: The Comparative Perspective
SAN11: Anthropology of Digital, Auditory and Visual Worlds
Music Part B Paper 9: Introduction to Ethnomusicology

Postgraduate Supervision

Dissertations for the MPhil in African Studies


In addition to teaching at Cambridge, I have designed and delivered graduate level courses for the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Hargeysa, lectured in the Beyond Borders Programme at the University of Waterloo, and taught a number of tutorials in Global Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University (on subjects including peace and conflict studies, development studies, culture & globalization, and migration).

Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow
Dr Christina  Woolner

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