Including refugees in Sweden’s Art and Music Schools: Practice and policy discourses

Adriana Di Lorenzo Tillborg, Live Weider Ellefsen

Forskningsoutput: KonferensbidragKonferensabstractPeer review

409 Nedladdningar (Pure)


In the Nordic countries, as in other contemporary societies across the world, increased migration following from conflicts, persecution and natural disasters has led to the arrival of and ensuing responsibility for cohorts of refugees and asylum seekers, many of which are underage children. With small chances of a safe return to their homelands for years to come, these children rely on the policies and practices of their host nations to promote the development of skills and competencies necessary to understand, live and work in their new societies. Moreover, they depend upon their host cultures to facilitate social integration while also providing the opportunity of maintaining and developing their own cultural identities. Through the UN convention relating to the status of refugees, as well as the UN convention on the rights of the child, refugee children are ensured these rights: the right to elementary education, the right to practice and enjoy one’s own language and culture, and notably also the right to participate fully in cultural and artistic life.
In Sweden and the other Nordic countries, the established system of municipally financed music and art programmes have, in recent years, cautiously assumed some of the responsibility for facilitating refugee children’s social integration, learning and participation in and through music and art activities. Following visions of including all children, the Swedish and Norwegian Art and Music Schools have explored, tentatively, different ways of recruiting and engaging refugee children and youth in cultural activities. However, recent research suggests that participation in Art and Music School activities amongst refugee and immigrant children stay low, compared to their peers. How to include (fulfil their own vision), and thereby contribute to secure the rights of, refugee children, remains a challenge and also a political priority for the Art and Music Schools.
Sweden’s Art and Music Schools have under the last few years gone through a historical political period; they have been subjected to a national policy process, a process officially initiated by the government to create national regulation for the first time in history. Within the process, inclusion, in general, appears as a key issue as exemplified by the title of the investigation report on Art and Music Schools (SOU 2016:69), “An inclusive Art and Music School on its own terms”. In this article, we investigate how the inclusion of refugee children in Swedish Art and Music and Schools is addressed and considered by Art and Music School leaders when discussing policies and their own Art and Music and School practices. Our approach entails tracing and analysing the discursive tension fields that form in focus group conversations with Art and Music School leaders talking about inclusion of refugee children in relation to practice and to the national policy process, as well as tracing and analysing the discourses that emerge within official documents of the policy process.
NNMPF2019, Stockholm PhD Projects
The aim of this article is to investigate the discourses and discursive tensions that emerge when Swedish Art and Music School leaders talk about inclusion of refugee children in relation to policy, as well as in relation to their own Art and Music school practices. The research question is: how do Art and Music School leaders talk about policy and inclusion of refugees when describing their own practice fields?
The data for the present article consist of official documents (such as the investigation report on Art and Music Schools) as well as two focus group conversations with a total of twelve Art and Music School leaders from Sweden. Both conversations were conducted during the mentioned national policy process. Foucault inspired discourse analysis together with concepts from educational policy theories constitute the theoretical and analytical framework.
A dominant inclusion discourse emerges through the initial analysis of the data. However, there are tensions between the policy and the practice levels when it comes to the inclusion of refugees. One example of such a tension is that when the municipalities do not have a specific policy for Art and Music Schools to include refugees, new kinds of including practices might not get funded. Further analysis of the data will trace discursive tensions within each dataset (the official documents and the focus group conversations) as well as between them. Moreover, further analysis will focus on how the concept of inclusion itself is spoken and written of. The concept of policy as process, as text and as discourse will also be applied in the analysis.
StatusPublished - 2019 feb.

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