Universiteit Leiden

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Andrea Giolai

University lecturer

Dr. A. Giolai
+31 71 527 4732

Andrea Giolai is University Lecturer Ethnography and Performing Arts of Japan at the Leiden Institute for Area Studies. He teaches and conducts research in sensory ethnography, sound studies and Japanese performing arts.

More information about Andrea Giolai

Fields of interest

  • Research on sound, hearing, sound art
  • Affect, embodiment, the senses in research
  • Acoustic multinaturalism, ecomusicology
  • The reconstruction of musical heritage
  • Japanese performing arts


My research focuses on the anthropology and ethnography of Japan, with a strong emphasis on sound as a medium for art and as a cultural artifact. I specialize in the production of sonic heritage in/through rituals, the reconstruction of ancient musical materials, and the relation between sound, loss, and environmental change. 

I have worked extensively on local versions of Gagaku, the musics and dances historically associated with the Japanese court. My PhD dissertation Decentering Gagaku. Exploring the Multiplicity of Japanese Court Music analyzes how these repertoires are practiced in Western Japan. In the past, I have researched the sonic production of atmospheric participation at Japanese religious festivals, the reconstruction of musical notations and instruments, and the embodied, affective interplay between musical and physical movement in Gagaku performances. 

After obtaining a Conservatory Diploma in modern flute (2009) and an MA in Japanese Studies at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice (2011), I completed a joint PhD in Area Studies at Leiden University and Ca’ Foscari University (2017). I conducted several years of fieldwork and archival research in Japan: as a special research student at Kyoto University (2013-2014); as a Japan Foundation Dissertation Research Fellow at the Research Institute for Japanese Traditional Music of Kyoto City University of Arts (2015-2016); and as a Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science Postdoctoral Fellow at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (2017-2019). I joined LIAS in September 2019.

Current projects include a study of how sound is related to various scales and typologies of environmental loss, funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO), and a multi-sited study of the performance and reconstruction of music and musical instruments from the Asian Silk Roads. I am also working on a monograph on sonic heritage in contemporary Japan, based on several years of fieldwork and apprenticeship.

Key Publications

2021  “The Matsuri as Sonic Event” in Fabio Rambelli, Erica Baffelli, and Andrea Castiglioni (eds.) The Bloomsbury Handbook of Japanese Religions, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 217-219.

2020 “Encounters with the Past: Fractals and Atmospheres at Kasuga Wakamiya Onmatsuri”, Journal of Religion in Japan, 9 (1-3), 213-247.

2019 “Sensing the Music: Oral Mnemonics as a ‘Technique of Affective Sensitization’ in Japanese Court Music”, Asian Anthropology, 18 (3), 203-221.

Recent Courses

  • Sound as heritage in Asia (from AY 2024-25, MA elective)
  • Anthropology of Japan (until AY 2023-24, MA elective)
  • Listening and hearing in research (until AY 2023-24, PhD seminar)
  • Performing arts of Japan. Tradition, diversity, and authenticity (BA seminar)
  • Ethnography and Anthropology of Japan. Intimacy and the senses (BA seminar)

University lecturer

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies
  • SAS Japan


  • No relevant ancillary activities
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