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. (http://www.beyondintractability.org/) 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.


https://www.amazon.co.uk/Music-Power-Liberty-Instruments-Institute/dp/1784534447

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.

New Music and Conflict Transformation PhD

A new PhD programme has been started up at Queens University, Belfast. The details are below. Olivier Urbain of the Toda Institute will be guest lecturing there this autumn. Who knows, maybe I'll get to do something there sometime soon!


"Musical Crossings: Music Mediation in Conflict Transformation"

Supervisors:
Professor Fiona Magowan (School of History and Anthropology and ISCTSJ Research Fellow); Professor Pedro Rebelo (Creative Arts, Music)
This project considers the ways in which music mediation has developed as a means of supporting and engaging the experiences of those who have lost relatives or who have been the victims of traumatic events in post-conflict regions. This doctoral research invites applicants to explore how musical practices facilitate new kinds of exchange, dialogue and relationships between communities and individuals who may not otherwise meet. Through analyses of music mediation processes with non-governmental and community-based organisations in Europe or South America, the project considers how music facilitates physical, emotional and psychological change among those who have experienced political conflict and violence.
Extending recent scholarship around the effects of music in conflict resolution, applicants are asked to consider the following questions:
  • How do community-facilitated music mediation programmes empower individuals and communities to support and effect interpersonal change?
  • How do different musical repertoires shape participants’ memories, narratives and experiences of conflict?
  • To what extent do communally-organised musical experiences mediate attitudes and behaviours in everyday socio-political decision-making?
  • In what ways is music mediation creating a legacy of conflict transformation in post-conflict regions?
Research on music and peacebuilding has considered how the interpersonal aesthetics of musical practice can enhance dialogue and strengthen relationships by increasing empathy, mutuality and creativity in participation. Further research is needed to understand how post-conflict musical mediation can change victims’ attitudes towards conflict and the specificities of local politics, as musical facilitators seek to empower communities and create sustainable peacebuilding activities among the next generation.
Closing Date for Applications: 27 February 2015
For further information on the PhD project, please contact: Prof. Fiona Magowan (f.magowan@qub.ac.uk). For advice on the application process and eligibity for funding, please contact Susan Templeton (s.templeton@qub.ac.uk). Additional information is available at:

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Witness - Dr Sarmast's Music School





This is a very interesting documentary about the establishment of the Afghani National Institute of Music after the Taliban effectively destroyed music culture in Afghanistan. Media outlets such as Al Jazeera have reported positively about the school and the documentary, but I'm curious as to why John Baily from Goldsmiths College was not mentioned, since I believed that he was rather crucial in the resurrection of Afghani musical culture after the fall of the Taliban, as expressed in this article.  I am also disappointed, but not surprised, that there was little debate about the pros and cons of official musical institutions, their role in state-sanctioned identity-building and there relationship and responsibility to the average citizen.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Conflict Map

Here's a useful website that keeps tabs on the current open conflicts around the world, with a news aggregate that details the level of severity, the new volume and the volume trend.

http://www.conflictmap.org/