Critical Ethnomusicology Pedagogy with Migrant Youth in Edmonton, Canada: Promoting Cultural Empowerment and Intercultural Learning through Music

  • Author / Creator
    El Kadi, Rana
  • Given the globally accelerating patterns of voluntary and forced migration, Canadian schools are currently serving the most culturally, religiously, and linguistically diverse student cohort in the country’s history. Many Canadian schools have responded by instituting culturally responsive curricula and diverse programming models; however, there is still a considerable gap in the provision of programs that effectively facilitate migrant students’ adaptation and success in their new social and educational environment. Despite some recent attempts at making Alberta’s provincially mandated curriculum more inclusive of Aboriginal and French Canadian perspectives, it continues to be dominated by Anglo-Saxon ideals. Furthermore, many scholars argue that Canadian education is heavily influenced by official multicultural policy, which downplays difference and treats ethnic and cultural groups as monolithic, static entities, thus reinforcing cultural stereotypes and reproducing social inequities within schools. This combination communicates a tacit yet palpable cultural hierarchy, which can disempower students of non-dominant cultures and alienate them from learning and social contexts. Given music’s established importance as a vehicle for children and young people’s construction and negotiation of individual, cultural, and group identities, I was interested in investigating the following questions: What are some alternative ways of applying critical pedagogy theory within ethnomusicology, such that it specifically validates the non-dominant musico-cultural knowledges of migrant youth? What are some of the methodological challenges that one might face when practicing critical ethnomusicology pedagogy with junior high migrant students in Canada? And how might these challenges be addressed? By utilizing a critical pedagogy framework, I sought to explore how migrant youth might utilize participatory music making and ethnomusicological tools to: a) counter the “subtractive,” arguably colonizing effects of Canadian mainstream schooling; b) promote a more critical understanding and practice of multiculturalism within their schools; and c) formulate more positive social interactions and friendships with students of other linguistic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. This led me to conduct three cycles of praxis with a total of 50 junior high migrant students, their parents, and teachers at a faith-based school and at a public school in Edmonton, Alberta. My dissertation ethnographically documents and comparatively analyzes these cycles, which took place between 2012 and 2014. Specifically, it recounts young students’ experiences of migration and schooling through the lens of music. It first reveals their challenges and their social agency as they negotiate different facets of their fluid identities, express and pursue their interests, and navigate a variety of relationships within the constraints of two contrastive school contexts. Second, my dissertation comparatively discusses the methodological challenges and resultant design features used in three cycles of ethnomusicological praxis, while citing the different factors at play: school philosophy and culture, school resources and staff support, participating class size, school cultural politics, inter-student social dynamics, and individual student characteristics. My praxis further involved experimenting with various music-based research methodologies that are youth-centered, collaborative, and engaging for migrant youth of diverse backgrounds. Within my dissertation, I critically assess these approaches’ apparent strengths and weaknesses through a comparison of the methodological challenges and project outcomes within each cycle of praxis. Finally, I utilize the insights acquired from these three cycles of praxis in order to propose and evaluate the impacts and limitations of a new pedagogical approach called Critical Ethnomusicology Pedagogy (CEP). I argue that, unlike critical pedagogy’s usual focus on verbal dialogue as an avenue towards critical thinking and conscientization, this approach’s focus on music and dance performance is capable of transcending barriers that may render traditional critical pedagogy ineffective within multicultural migrant classrooms.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2017
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.