Music education among refugee and migrant youths: sharing, belonging, including, in MAiA – Music and Arts in Action


In the global context of forced exiles, music is a significant artistic resource for promoting education among young migrants and refugees, which encourages the potential for social inclusion (Marsh, 2016; Odena, 2022; O’Neill, 2008). Music educators, and the organisations for which they work, attempt to ensure the efficiency of this resource. The actions and reactions that each musical setting accommodates are versatile, determined by the intersections among migrant populations, host cultures, caring organisations, and the socio-eco-political contexts within which these actions take place. Bearing this in mind, the pedagogical methods and the particularities of music may become crucial tools for education, inclusion, and citizenship.

Disregarding a solely negative perspective, forced migration still involves a wide spectrum of conditions, ranging from separation and trauma to survival and resilience, which in turn suggests radically different individual and collective experiences subject to the human interactions shaping them (Clark, 2023; Millar & Warwick, 2018; Nijs & Nicolaou, 2021). Focusing on musical engagement amidst the forced migration experience, the emotions of all the involved social actors, when not numbed by coping mechanisms, are affected, resonating with the slightest actions, particularly in the context of the teacher-student relationship (Lenette & Sunderland, 2014).

Musical instruments, melodies, harmonies, orchestras, and live performances constitute some of the means. However, most of the fine processing and detailed weaving of sociocultural relationships lies in long-term everyday practices (DeNora, 2000; Pink, 2012). The predicaments of multiculturalism that the diverse backgrounds of migrants and refugees involve (i.e., different cultures, languages etc.), further reinforced by the age and gender spectrum, suggest an ever- complex interplay of factors determining the sociocultural relations mediated by music (Pardue, Kenny & Young, 2023; Ugolotti, 2022; Kenny, 2020).


The aim of this thematic issue is twofold. First, we aim to explore the potential for using music education as a means of achieving the social inclusion of young migrants. Second, we aim to understand their personal development within the new context in which they find themselves by merging two research foci: refugee/migration studies and music education. We seek to explore how the individual and group determinants (i.e., gender, age, class, ethnicity and so on), come into play in music education contexts, and inevitably shape the lived experiences of all participants. These determinants are socio-culturally framed and thus embedded in the respective power structures that inevitably come to pertain in the music education settings. Therefore, we endorse an understanding of ‘inclusion’ as a multiple and contested concept (Lems, 2020; Silver & Miller, 2003). We seek to understand the overlapping and antagonistic forms of inclusion present in such music education settings.

Secondly, we consider the concept of ‘sharing’ (Belk, 2010; Filiod, 2017; Price, 1975) as useful in exploring manifestations of ‘inclusion’ through music education. Acknowledging that ‘sharing’ is an under-researched concept (Arcidiacono, Gandini, Pais 2018), we envision contributing to the relevant discussion through this Issue. Unlike ‘giving’, with which it closely dialogues owing to their relational nature, ‘sharing’ does not involve any relevant obligations and commitments between the involved actors (Widlok, 2017). In that sense, ‘sharing’ tackles power structures and induced asymmetries, and could even be considered to disrupt them. ‘Sharing’ as an analytical term may allow new insights into ‘inclusion’ through music education and enable a bottom-up approach to it.

Thirdly, we are interested in potential avenues emerging from the concept of ‘belonging.’ The effects of participating in music education may be traced in a multitude of ways, ranging from courses of action to ways of feeling and relating, both within and outside music education contexts. The choice of each individual to participate in these settings directs our thinking to the fostered senses of ‘belonging.’ We see ‘belonging’ as multiple and contested, deeply embedded in the intersections of the individuals and their resonations with the respective power regimes (Yuval- Davis, 2011). As such, senses of belonging may be overlapping and intersecting, simultaneously involving non-belonging. Therefore, it is of particular interest to explore the factors that determine the interlinked modes of ‘belonging/non-belonging’, with ‘sharing’ and ‘inclusion’ in the music education contexts.


This thematic issue particularly welcomes papers based on qualitative research, specifically fieldwork and ethnography presenting new data and concepts built over grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006) on social interactions in music education and pedagogy. Art-based research methods (Leavy, 2019) and collaborative research (i.e., co-writing with members of the research fields) are also very welcome.

Contributions that focus on the following types of population: unaccompanied minor migrants/refugees; young adult migrants/refugees; women; LGBTQIA+ migrant community. We particularly encourage submissions with a focus on this age and gender intersectionality.

Considering refugee-camp settings, urban poverty, social exclusion and subalternity as entwined with the social reproduction and development of power-induced hierarchies and asymmetries at human and institutional levels, we welcome contributions that transfer this scope to music education in refugee and migration contexts.

  • What is the role of each type of social actor involved in inclusive music education among young migrants and refugees? (i.e., students, teachers, directors, administrators, facilitators, financers)
  • How can the concepts ‘inclusion’, ‘sharing,’ and ‘(non-)belonging’ direct our understanding of music education in refugee/migrant contexts, particularly in refugee camps?
  • How do individual and group determinants (i.e., culture, gender, age, ethnicity, and so on), determine the modes of sharing and (non)belonging? How do they affect the prospects for inclusion?
  • How could the actors of music education transcend the asymmetries induced by urban poverty, social exclusion and subalternity? How do power structures inform music education settings?
  • How do ‘sharing’ and ‘(non-)belonging’, as present in refugee/migrant music education contexts, direct our analysis of inter-multi-trans-cultural possibilities?
    In what ways do the interconnections between music education, migration and (non)belonging affect the modes of ‘sharing’ and produce alternative visions of ‘inclusion’?

Please send a short biography and an abstract presenting the topic you plan to develop, including the background and aims, methods, results, and conclusions/implications (max. 500 words), to before October 15th 2023.

  • Submission of abstracts – until October 15th 2023
  • Feedback on pre-selected papers for publication – November 15th 2023
  • Submission of full papers by authors – March 31st 2024
  • Double-blind peer-review – between April 1st 2024 and June 30th 2024
  • Publication of thematic issue – November 2024

Alix Didier Sarrouy, Institute of Ethnomusicology – Music & Dance, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Nova University Lisbon. Musician, sociologist of arts and principal researcher of project ‘YOUSOUND – Music education as an inclusive tool for underage refugees in Europe’ (Foundation for Science and Technology, grant agreement: EXPL/SOC-SOC/0504/2021).

Chrysi Kyratsou, School of History Anthropology Philosophy and Politics, Queen’s University Belfast. Anthropologist and Ethnomusicologist. Researcher of the project ‘Refugees musicking: meanings and encounters in Greek reception centres’ (Arts and Humanities Research Council, grant number: 2275969).