YouSound – Music education as an inclusive tool for underage refugees in Europe

The YouSound project will explore the use of music as a tool for the social inclusion of underage refugees in Europe. It will make use of qualitative and arts-based research methods through fieldwork in music programs in Greece and Sweden, culminating in the production of relevant outputs for social sciences and policy making. In this way, the project aims to contribute concretely to the promotion of inclusive societies and institutions (responding to Sustainable Development Goal 16), in tandem with advancing the Sociology of Art.

One of the innovations of this project is that it unites two fields of research – refugee studies and music education studies – to understand the potential for the use of music education as a means for social inclusion of young refugees and their full development in new social contexts. By social inclusion, we refer to the psychosociological processes improving individuals to take fully part in society.

This is particularly relevant given the growing numbers of underage refugees in Europe in the past decade. According to 2019 Eurostat’s data, children constitute a large share of the migrants arriving in Europe: in 2019, from 123,700 migrants who arrived in the EU via the Mediterranean routes, 27% were children, often unaccompanied by family or adults responsible for them. 7.1% of children applying for asylum in the EU-27 in 2019 were unaccompanied, amounting to 14,100 asylum applications.

Two deductive questions structure this research project:

  • How may music education serve as a tool to achieve individual and collective results leading to social inclusion of underage refugees in Europe? We hope the merging of music education and refugee studies will allow us to research original arts-based methods and to acquire new knowledge on these particular social realities.
  • How can music be an ethnographic methodological device to access the “self” of each involved social actor, particularly students and teachers? Here the focus will be on analysing all that is required to teach, learn, and play music, including objects, for deeper ethnographic research. The “self” refers to using music as an expressive medium for communicating one’s emotions and ideas, but also about the way music may contribute to create one’s identity, as Tia DeNora following Foucault, conceptualises as “technology of the self” (1999).

To address these questions, we apply qualitative and arts-based methods, doing fieldwork in two European countries that have significant arrivals of underage refugees – namely Greece and Sweden. With some of the most crowded refugee camps in Europe, Greece has faced particular tensions managing large flows of migrants through the south-eastern Mediterranean coasts (Cabot, 2019). Sweden, due to its protective laws regarding minors getting into its borders, has had a major flow of underage migrants from Middle Eastern countries (Wernesjö, 2020).

Two months of intensive fieldwork will be conducted in two existing music programs – El Sistema Greece and the Swedish Dream Orchestra –, with whom contact has already been made and future presence agreed. These were chosen because they are based in the aforementioned European countries within their refugee contexts and singular inclusive agencies, having music education as a common means. Moreover, the PI has previously conducted sociological studies of similar music education programs in Venezuela, Brazil, and Portugal, focusing on urban poverty.

The qualitative and arts-based research methods will also provide methodological possibilities for refugees to express their individual and social realities which is crucial to the theme of social inclusion. The project benefits from a capable team whose combined expertise and experience spans the thematic and methodological expanse of the project.

The project is housed at the Instituto de Etnomusicologia – Música & Dança (INET-md), Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas da Universidade Nova de Lisboa (NOVA FCSH).