Thursday, 2 March 2017

ISA Conference, Baltimore - Part 1

I have just returned from the International Studies Association annual conference in Baltimore. This was a massive event with over six thousand delegates. The scope was staggering: it included everything from peace studies to coercion studies and everything in between. Enlightening to sit in on intelligence gathering strategy panels. I had been invited to participate on the Emerging Canadian Scholars panel that focused on arts-based approaches to IR. I will give a full review of this event later, but it was very fruitful, making links between the ISA itself, especially the Canadian branch, MOMRI, the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations in Coventry and Leuven University. Finally, I met Lesley Pruitt from the University of Melbourne who has written about music and peacebuilding in the below book, which I am now reading. I will give a review of this book later.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The Society for Ethnomusicology's Music and Social Justice Resources Project

This is very interesting and hopefully a point of renewed contact between the music and peacebuilding researchers and the applied ethnomusicologists:

They are looking to develop a repository of projects worldwide that use music for social justice, conflict and inclusion. This is similar to an idea that Min-On Music Research Institute has been developing. Watch this space...

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT)

I have only just discovered Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT), a peace and development organisation that operates in Bahrain. They attempt to promote cooperation and reduce conflict through inclusive development. They claim to reduce tensions between clans, tribes and communities by engaging with music, dance, traditional lore and crafts, poems and games. They have been in operation for about ten years and for five years they have also been hosting a music and arts festival that ends with a conference about cultural development that includes academics, communities and civil society. I have not as yet been able to find out much detail or any evidence of their success, but I will post it here when I do. Their website is occupied by a cosmetics company.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Music and Beyond Intractability

I have long used the excellent Beyond Intractability resource on peacebuilding. It has informed my understanding of conflict and peace processes and it is organised so effectively that I have been thinking about this format for the Min-On Music Research Institute website. So I was surprised that I missed the article The Processes of Music and Peacebuilding by Allie Adelman from 2011 on this very site.
Adelman refers to many of the available writings on the subject, which were not many at that time.She  draws heavily upon Urbain's first edited volume on the subject, Music and Conflict Transformation. As many of you know, this was not only the subject of my PhD thesis, I now work closely with Olivier Urbain at the Min-On Music Research Institute and we have since published a follow up book Music, Power and Liberty. While she does briefly mention that music can just as easily (or more easily) be used for destructive purposes, she focuses on the positive potentials. To this effect, there is an over-reliance on either anecdotes from famous people, like Nelson Mandela, or broad sweeping statements attesting to the power of music with very little evidence provided. Adelman even refers to Pontanima, the choir that I researched and took part in during my PhD. She does not go very far to explain what was really happening within the musical experience itself or what specifically these experiences changed and how.
Adelman concludes with another broad claim for the power of music, referring to Lederach's influential The Moral Imagination. This book, and Lederarch, was an inspiration for myself as well, but even within that book there are broad unsubstantiated claims made on the behalf of the power of music. This article is a useful introduction to some of original writings on the subject of music and peacebuilding, but considering how useful the rest of the site is, I strongly believe that this needs some serious updating with more current scholarship and a much more thorough empirical approach. In addition, more practical applications and models would also be useful, as would methods of evaluation. Otherwise, music might will continue to be believed to function powerfully in peacebuilding projects with no ability to back these beliefs up to stakeholders or measure the outcomes. This, in turn, could damage the whole concept and prevent future projects from ever being realised.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Musicological ethnography and peacebuilding

I've published this article recently in the Journal of Peace Education here:

Based on my PhD research with an inter-religious choir in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina, this paper discusses my interdisciplinary methodologies and suggests how this approach might be applied to future peacebuilding efforts. The use of ethnographic methods in research is an attempt to comprehend a social scene in a way that is as close as possible to the understanding of those within the scene. Normally, the data collected is linguistic in nature, although the visual and gestural, embodied data are increasingly included. There is very little consideration of the aural in this form of research. Even when the audio is considered, it is often described in written language rather than considered it to be data in and of itself, thereby creating a translation issue. In my own research in Sarajevo, I have made the case for sound and music as ethnographic data, since it is a means of experiencing and expressing tacit cultural understanding within and without a particular social group. This paper examines the commonalities between this approach and the peacebuilding strategies of Lederach et al. ( and proposes how musicological ethnography might be useful as a tool for increased intercultural understanding in peacebuilding activities.

Music, Power and Liberty: Book is out now!

Olivier Urbain and I edited this book which came out of a conference on music and peacebuilding in Paris a few years ago. Here is the abstract and a link:

Music is a complex and multi-faceted art form. Yet too often it is regarded as discrete and self-contained. The chapters in this groundbreaking book explore different aspects of how music may shape society and culture, yet go much further in viewing musical activity as a mode of power that can transform the lives of communities and individuals. The contributors (who include sociologists, musicologists and performers) focus above all on the relationship between music and the political upheavals of the Arab Spring. They examine key topics like music and revolution in Tunisia; the Egyptian musical tradition of the Revolutionary Song; and the ambivalent social status of the Arab musician, revered by the public when performing but also facing suspicion in a society where music is rightly seen as dangerous and subversive. In showing how music has been used to challenge the status quo, as well as enforce it, the ambiguity of music is fully revealed: it can be used to bolster both regime power and popular liberty, often simultaneously. This is a vital contribution to more nuanced understandings of music and politics.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

New Article in African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review

The latest African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review contains an article by myself. You can access it here through JSTOR:

Here is the abstract:

Whose Music, Whose Country? Music, Mobilization, and Social Change in North Africa

ABSTRACT Social change began to rapidly emerge in many North African states in 2011 and 2012, and this process continues today. Music has been embedded within this process from the beginning and has been a key feature in street protests and expressing group identity that opposed the status quo at the time. The situation has since become extremely complex as group identities have split and merged, but in the early days of social change in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, music was used by professional and amateur musicians as well as non-musicians for several purposes, namely, to express a more generalized group identity, to capture the moment of the protests, and to propagate information about the situation to a wider Arab diaspora and gain support from them. Conversely, the state also used music at this time as a form of social control by promoting music that was uncritical to marginalize the challenging music.