Friday, 18 August 2017

The Relationship Between Wellbeing and Peacebuilding: A Musical Perspective

The UK Research landscape has in recent times become more and more focused on 'wellbeing.' This is not purely altruistic, it is, as most things, primarily economic. Despite social researchers attempts at challenging the dominant public discourse that wellbeing of the public was a leftwing or even communist agenda, it has been shown that a lack of social wellbeing directly correlates with an economic strain on the national health service. Early interventions to increase wellbeing are not medical in nature, because medical issues have not yet manifested theselves. These interventions need to be social and possibly artistic in nature. For the first time, the public discourse about the value of the arts is being taken seriously by policy makers and economists. But how does this increased focus on the arts and wellbeing relate, if at all, to peacebuilding?
Within Peacebuilding, there have been many discussions about the connections with wellbeing, although the debates tend to be between psychological or sociological approaches, or top-down versus bottom-up approaches. There has not been much in the way of discussing wellbeing as a peacebuilding process; they are both on a continuum of violence reduction and improving human fulfillment. Music has been considered within peacebuilding as an add-on to highlight issues and/or raise funds for campaigns. My own research and others suggest that music can play a much larger role, given its ability to affect identity, memory, belief and emotions, and therefore, behaviour. this new focus on wellbeing shows how the personal can connect to the social as well.
In other words, music and peacebuilding research needs to connect to music and wellbeing research in a more direct way. I am currently developing a network of music and wellbeing as well as a network of music and peacebuilding (through the Min-On Music Research Institute). I will post progress on these networks as they progress.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Music and Conflict Studies Growing in Popularity

Music departments are starting to catch on to the concept of music and conflict and peacebuilding. For example, Keele has a module now entitled Music, Conflict and Social Change run by Dr Fiorella Montero-Diaz. This is part of the wider trend of engagement by applied ethnomusicologists such as Samuel Araujo, especially from those scholars from the global south. 

Monday, 27 March 2017

Peace, Empathy and Conciliation Through Music Event

This sounds like a very interesting event in Australia in September. Featuring a keynote by Laura Hassler, the director of Musicians Without Borders, whom I met in Bogota last year.

Date: 21-22 September 2017
Venue: The University of Melbourne, Parkville VIC 3052
Submission Deadline: Thursday 1 June 2017
Event Registration Deadline: Saturday 1 July 2017
Enquiries: Samantha Dieckmann (
Organised by the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, The University of Melbourne, in collaboration with the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts & Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, and Multicultural Arts Victoria, this collaboratory will bring together researchers, practitioners (musicians including performers, community musicians, music educators, music therapists; community development workers; social service workers; arts organisation delegates), and arts and community policymakers to share ideas around the ways that music is used to develop peace, empathy and conciliation. We invite submissions from local, national and international researchers and practitioners, and hope that the symposium will produce thought-provoking discussion and fruitful partnerships between industry, community and education sectors.

Organised around the United Nations International Day of Peace, this collaboratory will include a keynote address by Laura Hassler, founder and director of ‘Musicians Without Borders’.

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.