Archive for the ‘post-conflict’ Tag

New publication on Music Interventions

One of the reasons that I’m not blogging very often at the moment is that I am deeply immersed in my PhD research into music participation projects in conflict-affected areas. That means that I spend most of my days (and many of my evenings) reading, writing, coding, thinking, and then reading and writing some more. I spend much of my time crafting words, including for various scholarly publications – book chapters, journal articles, opinion pieces, and so on. Sadly, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging, which often requires a very different headspace.

Therefore, I’m very happy to share the news that the first of the various book chapters and articles I’ve been working on alongside my PhD has been published. The chapter, Music Interventions: Shaping Music Participation in the Aftermath of Conflict, appears in this volume:

Yearbook Arts Education 3 cover

In it, I outline the broad intentions that underpin many music interventions in post-conflict and conflict-affected places, illustrating how this looks in practice with examples from the Afghanistan National Institute of Music and the Pavarotti Music Centre in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

This book, The Wisdom of the Many: Key Issues in Arts Education, was created through a very collaborative and democratic process.  The Editor, Shifra Schonmann, invited arts education academics and scholars from around the world – some extremely well-established, others like me in the early years of building their profile – to contribute succinct (2000 words) chapters on whatever we felt were the current emerging issues in research in arts education. Shifra used a ‘snowball’ technique for finding potential authors, asking the initial group of academics she approached to recommend a further five scholars each for inclusion. Each member of this expanded group then contributed a list of the critical current issues in arts education from their perspective. Later, we were asked to select one of these to write on.

The whole process took about eight months, from gathering the group of writers, to compiling the issues, proposing titles and circulating these, then writing the chapters, and reviewing each other’s work (which was a wonderful way of connecting with new scholars) – incredibly fast for an academic publication involving such a large group of writers (104)! Throughout, we were encouraged and guided by Shifra Schonmann, who deserves great accolades for the superb way she steered and maintained the publication’s steady progress, while keeping all of us so very involved throughout, and for the clarity and vision that conceived of the whole ‘crowd-sourced’, ’emergent’ publication in the first place. She really is quite a star!

Having read several of the chapters as part of the peer reviewing process, I can attest to the diverse array of issues covered (concerning music, art, visual arts and digital media, drama and theatre), and the great readability of the different chapters. If you are wanting to know what some of the ‘hot’ issues and emerging themes in arts education are in 2015-16, this book is going to be a great place to start. Click on the link below to see the Table of Contents:

Yearbook Arts Education 3 ToC

Then, head to Waxmann Publishers to purchase the e-book or paperback copy. Happy reading!

Unpacking music in post-conflict settings

I enrolled in PhD studies (at Griffith University) at the end of February, and have since been throwing myself into it on a fulltime basis (taking a bit of time out here and there to lead short-term composition/improvisation projects, which are the main content focus on this blog). Let me introduce you to my big, crunchy PhD topic – I’m examining the impact and contributions (if any) of music education initiatives in post-conflict settings. I want to look at some big initiatives from the past that had lots of international support and media attention, such as the Pavarotti Music Centre in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as projects that are in operation right now.

Lots of booksI find I love the luxury of time that I have to settle into my topic, to read, and then write responses to what I read, and to reflect and ponder and observe the way these reflections become new branches or nodes on the tree-like structure of my topic.

Where does the reading start for a topic like this? Surprisingly (given the amount of media attention these initiatives can garner) there is little written specifically on post-conflict music education initiatives themselves. There is a bit more if you go into the area of ‘music and social change’ (El Sistema and other similar projects around the globe – see the links I’ve added to my Blogroll for some of these) and there is some literature on the Israel/Palestine conflict (although this work cannot be considered ‘post’-conflict – I am limiting my scope to post-conflict settings at this stage). Music therapy has also turned its attention to conflict settings in the last 20 years, so there are some interesting perspectives and accounts to be found there as well.

This is also a multi-disciplinary topic. I find I am looking at writing from a wide range of disciplines, including (music) sociology, anthropology, conflict studies, international development, music therapy, education, peace-building… to name just a few.

In these first few weeks, my approach is to consider some of the reasons behind the existence of the kinds of music initiatives I am interested in (which are music schools and community arts centres that offer opportunities for participation in music activities), and focus my literature searches and reading in response to these.

I have found that these kinds of music initiatives may have multiple goals and agendas, including:

  • bringing opposing parties together and/or communicating peaceful messages to combatants);
  • healing and therapy;
  • social connections;
  • diversion for at-risk young people;
  • education and (informal) learning opportunities;
  • regeneration of cultural knowledge and traditions;
  • asserting (or creating a new) identity;
  • beauty, joy and optimism;
  • escape from the brutality/depressing reality of daily life and recent memories
  • the necessity of creativity and creative outlets to survival in unpredictable, unstable environments.

Therefore I’ve been reading everything I find about arts in post-conflict settings, as well as under the ‘music and conflict transformation’ banner, and more generally about ‘education and reconciliation’. It’s a pretty stimulating, fascinating, complex topic to be exploring, so in these early, heady days of full-time research, I am wildly, unreservedly, passionately excited about my project. Yes! (It’s important to declare this right now, because the standard PhD narrative has the researcher hitting a bit of a slump in the second year. I want to be able to return to this post to remind myself of this early energy :-)).