The Use of Music in Youth Peacebuilding Projects

Lesley Pruitt (2010). The Use of Music in Youth Peacebuilding Projects PhD Thesis, School of Political Science and International Studies, The University of Queensland.

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Author Lesley Pruitt
Thesis Title The Use of Music in Youth Peacebuilding Projects
School, Centre or Institute School of Political Science and International Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-07
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Barbara Sullivan
Roland Bleiker
Anita Harris
Total pages 216
Total black and white pages 216
Subjects 16 Studies in Human Society
Abstract/Summary While conflict regularly impacts the lives of young people, they have often been forgotten in peace and conflict research and excluded from formal peacebuilding processes. When attention is paid to youth, they are usually treated simplistically as either major perpetrators of violence or as innocent victims. This sort of analysis clearly ignores the ways that young people may also be active in peacebuilding work. In this study I explore the literature on peacebuilding involving young people and evidence for the usefulness of music in youth peacebuilding projects. I argue that music is particularly helpful in engaging young people in peacebuilding, allowing them to use their knowledge and skills in ways relevant to their lives. This can make an important contribution to building a culture of peace, including in communities experiencing violence. This research is premised on fieldwork with two non-government organizations – in Australia and in Northern Ireland - involved in youth peacebuilding projects that utilize music. The methods employed included participant observation and interviews with both the young people and the leaders involved in the programs. In both groups I found that music can be a particularly useful way to engage youth in peacebuilding. Most of the young people I interviewed would not have been interested in a peacebuilding program that was not music focused. However, many of those same youth, after being drawn in by the musical aspect were inspired to continue working to build peace in some capacity. Music became a useful tool for building peace by: offering a mechanism for engaging in dialogue across differences of culture, religion, race and ethnicity, gender, etc; providing a performative framework for challenging essentialist notions of identity (including conflicted identities); and presenting an opportunity for (re)creating spaces as more open and inclusive. This is not to suggest that these youth peacebuilding programs solved all issues. Concerns remain, particularly when it comes to realizing a gender equitable framework, which is necessary for sustainable peace. Indeed, it was clear that when programs relied primarily on certain masculine-identified music and dance genres, girls often felt excluded from this type of peacebuilding activity. In the few instances where this has even been acknowledged the typical ‘remedy’ has been to make attempts to ‘fix’ the girls by teaching them to engage in a more masculine fashion. Nevertheless, while girls constituted a minority at most of the workshops I observed, the young women who did manage to overcome the barriers to participation reported important gains, including greater self-confidence, enhanced artistic skills that could be used in addressing conflict non-violently, and a sense that this experience would leave them better placed to get involved in peacebuilding in the future. These observations suggest that music can be a useful way of engaging both girls and boys in peace work, but they also make it clear that critically engaging with gender throughout program planning and implementation is necessary to foster greater inclusion and thus support the creation of cultures of peace.
Keyword youth
Northern Ireland
Additional Notes n/a

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Created: Thu, 28 Oct 2010, 09:28:25 EST by Ms Lesley Pruitt on behalf of Library - Information Access Service