Music therapy as an anti-oppressive practice: critically exploring gender and power with young people in school
AffiliationMelbourne Conservatorium of Music
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2018 Dr. Elly Scrine
This project sought to locate music therapy within broader health, research, and education contexts, as a participatory and anti-oppressive practice for young people in school to explore issues related to gender and power. In parallel, the research aimed to expand music therapy as an anti-oppressive practice (Baines, 2013), specifically focusing on deepening music therapists’ understanding of critical issues related to gender, power, and young people in education settings. Predicated on the notion that schools can be both sites of violence, and microcosms for change-making, the project occurred during a time of significant shifts across education settings worldwide to respond to endemic gender-based violence (Chandra-Mouli et al., 2017). Meanwhile, young people themselves continue to demonstrate new forms of resistance to gender-based violence and dominant gender and sexuality norms (Bragg et al., 2018; Keller et al., 2018). This project responds to a need for approaches that support young people’s autonomy and challenge processes of pathologisation and individualisation; approaches that seek to understand social structures, and the ways in which young people are shaped by their relationships with these social structures, and with each other (Brunila & Rossi, 2018). Framed broadly as a participatory action research project, the study was informed by a series of music-based workshops conducted in the first year, exploring the issues that young people identified as most important in relation to gender. The project then established a music therapy group program in a government school. The school was located in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, with an index of community socio-educational advantage below the national average, and a high percentage of students with a language background other than English. This primary project took the form of a critical ethnography, and generated a wide range of data over nine months. Interviews were conducted with five staff and sixteen of the young people who participated in music therapy groups exploring issues related to gender and power. Discourses of risk and deficit emerged as critical issues to respond to in the project, and became a key focus of the four chapters of results. The research revealed the complex forms of violence that can occur when exploring gender-based violence in a school context, and how these relate to young people’s layered subjectivities and social positioning. The findings demonstrated a need to problematise and expand upon current responses to gender-based violence in the context of Australian education settings, especially where Whiteness and colonial relations remain profoundly underexamined. Chapter Six overviews the five broad, salient themes that emerged in relation to the role of music in creating conditions for young people to explore gender. Chapter Seven outlines the role of music therapists in supporting young people to do so, the unique skillset and critical lens required in this emerging practice, and a new method developed in the project: ‘Insight-Oriented Narrative Songwriting’. Informed by anti-oppressive and decolonial approaches to reframing violence and harm, music therapy is ultimately constructed as a practice congruent with shifting understandings and paradigms related to trauma. Overarchingly, the research exposes the complex conditions of power in schools, and explicates the potential of music therapy within these conditions, to support young people to resist discursive positioning, and rewrite their own subjectivities.
Keywordsmusic therapy; schools; gender; gender-based violence; critical education; anti-oppressive practice; settler-colonial theory
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