Examining social inclusion through music education: Two Swedish case studies

Eva Sæther, Monica Lindgren

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Since music education can be regarded as an arena for construction, performance and negotiation of cultural meaning and norms of values, the field of music education has, during the last decades, become aware of the need to locate issues of facing music within social questions (Jorgensen, 2003; DeNora, 2000; Wright, 2010). One central concept within this discussion is social inclusion. However, issues of inclusion in music education are more complex than they might first appear and researchers raise different aspects of social inclusion. Some examples: Wright (2010) defines inclusion within the field of music education as the right to remain musically and culturally autonomous unless dominant culture. Elliott (2012) considers social inclusion by music education as a political issue. Jorgensen (2003) argues that social inclusion derives from changing music education, not making it more widely available. Burnard, Dillon, Rusinek and Sæther (2008) suggest that inclusion in music classrooms is best understood in connection with the interplay of policies, structures, culture and values specific to schools. A music education program, which has become an inspiration for music educators around the world because of its stated social aims, is El Sistema. The choir-­‐ and orchestra school for children was developed in Venezuela in the 1970s and founded in Sweden in 2010. The objective of the program is to use music as a vehicle for individual and social development and to serve as an intercultural meeting place. Children, growing up in all kinds of neighbourhoods, from different socio-­‐economic conditions and with different ethnic backgrounds, are given the opportunity to develop personally, socially, and musically in orchestras and choirs. From the perspective of two case studies in progress on El Sistema our research question for this paper is outlined as follows: How is social inclusion through music legitimized and practiced in El Sistema Gotenburg (ESG) and El Sistema Malmö (ESM)? The empirical material, which consists of ethnographical data collected from interviews, documents and observations, are analysed through the concepts inclusion/exclusion (Popkewitz, 1998) agency (DeNora, 2000; Karlsen & Westerlund, 2010), democracy (Bernstein, 2000) and enculturation (Shimahara, 1970). Furthermore, the preliminary results are discussed in relation to recently published research of El Sistema in Venezuela (Baker, 2014).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015 Mar 4

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Music
  • Educational Sciences


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