Sean Williams


Contact and location



I am an ethnomusicologist—an anthropologist of music—and I teach music and cultural studies. My interests include liminality, language, gender, religion, and food; because of teaching with so many colleagues, those interests have expanded to include so much more. I have been very fortunate to teach with specialists in theater, physics, philosophy, psychology, agriculture, film, writing, cultural studies, linguistics, history, marine science, literature, and more. It has given me both breadth and depth in my teaching, along with the opportunity to observe outstanding colleagues at work. I teach my students to play and sing in whatever genre and language we explore. In addition to my articles and reviews in the field of ethnomusicology, I have written one award-winning book and pieces about music and religion, revival, food, dance, and identity for several edited volumes. My next book—on music and liminality—will appear in print in 2025.



Ph.D., Music, University of Washington, 1990; M.A., Music, University of Washington, 1985; B.A., Music, University of California, Berkeley, 1981.

Teaching Style

My best teaching occurs when my students and I can work as a team to explore and understand together. We ask questions, we experience deep listening, and we highlight our observations and critical thinking beyond considering whether something “rocks” or “sucks.” Because music is always best understood in combination with an issue—politics, spirituality, liminality, language—our contextualization of music yields the clearest results. 

Path Affiliation

Fields of Study