Singing to be Normal: Tracing the Behavioural Influence of Music in Conflict Transformation
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
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Reason for embargo
I intend to publish this thesis as a monograph.
Music is often heralded as a means of bringing people together or celebrating diversity and therefore it is also often assumed that music can be a beneficial tool in conflict transformation settings. Despite this widespread belief there is little empirical evidence to support this notion. Indeed, there is more evidence that suggests the opposite; music can increase solidarity within one group but that very process strengthens the borders between what is accepted as in-group or out-group. It is this strengthening of identity borders that can lead to outright conflict if certain other social conditions prevail. One question remains, why is the belief in the power of music so widespread when there is evidence that demonstrates potential negative outcomes? In order to address that question, it is useful to observe that music continues to be used in community projects and within NGOs as a means to bond groups in social conflict despite the lack evidence to support their actions. The belief in the positive power of music has influenced behaviour so that musical activity is included in peace work. Indeed, belief can be seen as a prime motivator of behaviour in most sectors of the world, much more so than hard evidence. This thesis is an exploration of the social processes that occur in musical experiences that affect memory, identity and emotions and how they affect understanding and belief which in turn affects group behaviour. The research is inter-disciplinary, drawing on music sociology, social movements, cultural studies, ethno-musicology and conflict theory, and data was collected using qualitative methods (ethnographic interviewing, action research, observation/participation, grounded theory). The fieldwork was conducted with an inter-religious choir in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and a comparative study conducted with a world-music community choir in London, UK.
PhD in Sociology