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date: 15 October 2019

(p. 299) Politics

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter analyses theories about how social change can be effected through participation in the arts. A theory of change lens applied to the literature results in identification of three broad types of change processes: social/civic action, in which the major change strategy is influencing of public opinion and decision-making through arts activities; the community cultural development approach in which change occurs at a community level, as a result of creative social interaction between arts participants; and finally, the therapeutic paradigm, in which change is elicited in individuals through the healing process of arts used therapeutically. These approaches are examined in relation to broader theories of participation, and Vygotsky’s social development theory, resulting in a meta-theory about factors that lead to change through arts participation: the contribution of a skilled leader, the utilization and stimulation of creativity, and a collaborative process. Case studies of community music initiatives illustrate the theory.

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More Music: Baybeat Streetband parade for the West End Lantern Festival, United Kingdom (photography courtesy of More Music)

The third section of the handbook explores some of the politics and policies influencing community music, and the ways in which community music is influencing politics and policies, particularly in the area of social change. In the opening chapter in this section, Kim Dunphy analyses theories about how social change can be effected through participation in the arts. Specifically, she focuses on three broad types of change processes in her chapter: social/civic action, community cultural development and the therapeutic paradigm. Dunphy then examines these approaches in relation to broader theories of participation and social development theory in order to explore a meta-theory about (p. 300) factors that lead to change through arts participation. Kathryn Deane’s chapter then looks at the trajectory of community music in the United Kingdom over the last half-century, suggesting that government policies, rather than politics, have been the driver for much community music work, and arguing that the practice adapts well to frequent changes in policies. Specifically, her chapter argues that the practice’s instrumentality and focus on its participants, are key ingredients in helping community music to continue to thrive. Quirijn Lennert van den Hoogen and Evert Bisschop Boele’s chapter provides a scheme of the basic tensions inherent to community music in the cultural policy fields that can form the basis for ‘negotiations’ between actors. Their grid is applied to the practice of community music in an effort to provide insight into the intricacies of cultural policies regarding this particular form of music as well as into the practicalities of the practice of community musicians working in a field in which cultural policymaking plays an often-vital role.  Marissa Silverman and David Elliott’s chapter then continues this conversation and raises questions about the intersections between community music and citizenship and poses the fundamental question: ‘Artistic citizenship for what?’ In their chapter, they aim to provide community musicians/facilitators with a theoretical framework for thinking about and acting in relation to the ethical natures, potentials, and pragmatic realities of artistic citizenship for human flourishing through music and the other arts. 

Building on earlier chapters, David Lines then outlines different concepts and positions on ethics as they apply to community music. As he argues in his chapter, the changing nature and diversity of communities means that community music facilitators need to have the necessary conceptual tools to consider the possible ethical consequences and directions of their community music actions. Lines advocates for a critical, research-based questioning approach, so that the situational demands of different community contexts are taken into account. He concludes with a simple framework that could usefully be applied to the critical questioning of the ethics of community music (What? When? Why? How? Who? Where?) in order to help community musicians and cultural workers negotiate their way through complex decision-making and creative practice in their work.  Patrick Schmidt’s chapter adds another layer to this section, by arguing that community oriented work should be approached both as a contributor to, and consumer of, policy thinking and analysis. In particular, his chapter suggests that in order to achieve greater engagement with policy, individuals and organizations must focus on how to develop a framing disposition, that is, the individual or organizational wherewithal to generate opportunities and put innovative projects to practice. James Bau Graves’s chapter concludes this section with a necessary and critical voice to the discussions, examining the exclusionary history of North America and its trajectory in community arts, and offering the concept and practice of cultural democracy as an alternative.