I’d like to teach the world to sing: Music and conflict transformation
Date: 1 February 2010
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in Sociology
Modern conflict transformation emerged after World War II as a discipline and a field of academic research. Since the early 1990s it has increasingly concerned itself with psycho-social issues (e.g. trauma treatment or reconciliation) in the aftermath of violent protracted social conflicts. Within this psycho-social space there has ...
Modern conflict transformation emerged after World War II as a discipline and a field of academic research. Since the early 1990s it has increasingly concerned itself with psycho-social issues (e.g. trauma treatment or reconciliation) in the aftermath of violent protracted social conflicts. Within this psycho-social space there has been a growing interest in the use of music in conflict transformation to improve relationships between in and out-groups. However, the field of music and conflict transformation is still nascent, with little in-depth research available. The majority of studies have been undertaken by interested parties or relies on anecdotal evidence from organisers and musicians with little concern for the context of the music use. Participants, whose attitudes and relationships to out-groups are the focus of conflict transformation interventions, are largely overlooked and their views are rarely discussed. Furthermore, there are few detailed studies on exactly how music affects conflict transformation outcomes. Instead allusions are often made to terms such as “the power of music” which act as a black box intended to explain how music “works”, but patently fail to do so. This thesis attempts to fill these two gaps in the literature by focusing on the participants’ experiences in two different conflict transformation contexts, a multi- cultural music project for school children in Noway and the casual music use in a settlement of internally displaced persons in Sudan. Through qualitative research methods, rich descriptive data from different parties is gathered. The data is analysed using grounded theory. As a result a very different and more complex picture emerges that enriches the current understanding of how music is used and perceived in conflict transformation contexts. In particular, how participants view these activities and how power relationships, though rarely mentioned, affect the music use is explored in detail. Some tentative suggestions indicate that music works best when used in longitudinal bottom-up activities and that music can augment conflict transformation activities rather than replace them. Additionally, it is proposed that music may work as a form of benign interruption in conflict transformation activities and that musical events provide a liminal space where the real work lies in the process of bringing any changes in attitudes from the liminal space into everyday life.
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