As a conclusion to Music, Education, and Religion: Intersections and Entanglements, this chapter reflects upon the considerable ground covered within these pages but also considers new paths for the future. Attending to each aspect of the intersections in turn, I first question just what we mean when we write about religion in what has been characterized as a secular, or postsecular, age. As the introduction states, definitions of the religious and the secular are multiple and multifaceted, a rich and diverse tapestry of beliefs, practices, and meanings. Such complexity is also true of other issues and ideas raised in the chapters of this book, which I turn to next in a consideration of culture, considering how it is manifest through understandings of identity and community. As we navigate this world (and others) in relation with others, I finally question the direction in which we are headed, particularly focusing on the ideals of social justice as they are raised in this book. These discussions serve as an invitation to reflect on how far we have come and also to imagine the directions that future scholarship at the intersection of music, education, and religion may take.
Music Education and Religion in a (Post-)Secular Age
In his highly acclaimed work, Charles Taylor (2007) argues that in comparison with contemporary societies such as Islamic countries, India, and Africa, and the history of humankind thus far, the North Atlantic world is distinctly secular, and Western Europe also demonstrates significant shifts “away from God” (2). He describes life in this secular age as characterized by a divide between church and state, relegating understandings of “religion, or its absence [as] largely a private matter” (2). In this age, actions are guided by rationality rather than belief or superstition, and individuals are faced with diverse (non)spiritual beliefs to choose from—of which, belief in God is “frequently not the easiest to embrace” (3). Contrast this decade-old description of an almost wholly secularized milieu with the insights offered in the preceding chapters, where lived experiences of religiosity, spiritual belief, or disbelief are far from straightforward in today’s social, musical, and educational contexts. For instance, Percović and Mandić (chap. 6) contextualize their chapter within an Orthodox revival in post-Soviet Serbia. Moro (chap. 5) describes the careful cultivation of religiomusical communities in diaspora. Naqvi (chap. 13) highlights the potency of music in an Iranian context that is highly regulated according to interpretations of religious ideas and ideals. Fletcher and Barrett (chap. 4) illustrate how music in an Australian Catholic school setting can foster a variety of religious beliefs and values. Even in Taylor’s supposedly secular United States, “Resurgent fundamentalists and evangelicals are flexing their political muscles, . . . religious conflict and controversiality is sharpening, . . . Church-state tension is increasing and religiopolitical ideologies or variations of civil religion are polarizing” (Robbins and Anthony 2017, 1). As stated in the Introduction, religion is far from dead and buried.
The binary once assumed between religious belief and secularity is drawn into question, as illustrated by the boundary-crossing teacher in Miettinen’s chapter (16), who expresses her own religiosity as “a liberal kind of Jewish religiousness . . . aligned with secular Judaism.” Väkevä (chap. 7) presents a case in which the religious meanings of a particular piece of music coalesce with cultural memories and traditions, similarly obfuscating the divide between the sacred and secular. The climate in which such a myriad of (non)religious adherences and expressions are made possible has been analyzed by scholars in terms of “desecularization, resacralization, de-Christianization, and the emergence of a post-secular society” (Moberg, Granholm, and Nynäs 2012, 2). The shifting power structures between religious institutions and other public systems warrant attention as new identities, agencies, and communities are made possible, also through music. As Boyce-Tillman explains (chap. 15), a university with a Christian foundation might “fill the hole in the soul of a postsecular world” by embracing diversity, and the paradoxes and contradictions of spirituality through musicking. Heuser (chap. 10) employs metaphor in drawing similarities between sacred rituals and those of musical practice, exploring the establishment of a sacred space in secular contexts. Varkøy (chap. 8) implores educators at attend to all layers of musical meaning, including spiritual and existential layers. However, chapters by Westerlund, Kallio, and Partti (chap. 3) and Väkevä (chap. 7) caution that the inclusion of secular or religious musical material as part of teaching and learning does not necessarily result in the inclusion of secular or religious students and may even result in assimilatory processes of indoctrination. Alperson (chap. 2) also reminds us that “religion has been a source of grievous harms,” harms that can indeed be inflicted through music, as is also described in Kertz-Welzel’s chapter (11). Thus, attending to the “deeper perspectives in music” (Varkøy, chap. 8) may not always result in desirable consequences (see also Thorgersen and von Wachenfeldt, chap. 14). Without offering prescriptive solutions, the conversations that may be read between the chapters of this book establish a foundation from which scholars may further explore the multifaceted roles and functions that religion and spirituality may fulfil in postsecular, liquid modern (Bauman 2000) music education. As Orsi (2005) states, “Religion does not make the world better to live in (although some forms of religious practice might); religion does not necessarily conform to the creedal formulations and doctrinal limits developed by cultured and circumspect theologians, church leaders, or ethicists; religion does not unambiguously orient people toward social justice. . . . Religion is often enough cruel and dangerous, and the same impulses that result in a special kind of compassion also lead to destruction, often among the same people at the same time” (191).
Thus, rather than conceiving of belief and skepticism as polar opposites, or even as either end of a continuum, and acknowledging that (a)religious practices and expressions manifest in any number of positive or negative ways, the intersections between music, education, and religion offer an invitation to explore “a more integrated way of being” (Boyce-Tillman 2014, 11) and the political processes that are embedded within, and produced through, such experiences and identities.
As described by Habermas (2010) in his writings on postsecularism, a growing public consciousness of religion is brought about, in part, by increasing immigration and encounters with religious others. These encounters bring various challenges as to whether they further reinstate the hegemonies of majority knowledge orthodoxies and social realities or encourage us to “reimagine and rearticulate power, change, and knowledge through a multiplicity of epistemologies, ontologies and axiologies” (Sium, Desai, Ritskes 2012, iii). The field of music education in particular is overwhelmingly White, which is not to dismiss or disavow the quality of work that has been and is being done, but serves as a call to reconsider and disrupt the systems that enable the privileges that so many of us in the Academy enjoy. A first step is a recognition of how Others are recognized and defined, and how we define ourselves in relation.
Deliberations over the distinction and recognition of both individual and communal identities have long been the focus of sociological research, and identifying Others is increasingly complex amidst the ebbs and flows of a globalizing world (Giddens 1991). This complexity is aptly described by Estelle Jorgensen in the opening chapter of this book, positioning herself as a “citizen of the world,” an identity an increasing number of us assume, living outside our home countries (if indeed “home” as a distinct location still exists) and engaging with diverse cultural artifacts and practices every day, in activities as diverse as what we eat for lunch to what we listen to on our music playlists. The destabilization of identities and cultures by such liquid modern conditions (Bauman 2000) has significant implications for how we can, or should, engage with Others in upholding the ideal of cultural pluralism. Embracing cultural diversity in music and education settings entails not only a recognition of “the kinds of difference, and the forms difference might take” (Moro, chap. 5), but also the navigation of tensions that may arise when “multiple, incongruent and . . . noncomplementary worlds” meet (Westerlund, Kallio, and Partti, chap. 3). Where identity and culture have been the focus of sociological attention in terms of ethnicity, nationality, race, social status, and even musical tastes, scholarship has largely neglected identities in relation to religious belief (Flanagan 2016). In reflecting on the connections between music, education, and religion in terms of identity and culture in this volume, I here take the opportunity to critically question just what we are writing about when we refer to cultural identity or culture, and what work remains to be done.
In their update to Kroeber and Kluckhohn’s (1952) seminal work, Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions, Baldwin, Faulkner, and Hecht (2006) look to the etymological roots of culture, through the French culture, derived from the Latin verb “culturare” (to cultivate). They note a “kinship among the words. Cultus, for example (from which we get “cult”) refers to religious workshop, which might be seen as a way of bringing up (“cultivating”) someone in a religious group” (6). Furthermore, in his 1983 work, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, Raymond Williams drew connections between culture, the arts, and education through referring to the genealogy of Civilization in the German Kultur (agricultural cultivation). Thus, culture for him was used in three categories, as “(i) the independent and abstract noun which describes a general process of intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic development, . . . (ii) the independent noun, whether used generally or specifically, which indicates a particular way of life, whether of a people, a period, a group, or humanity in general, . . . (iii) the independent and abstract noun which describes the works and practices of intellectual and especially artistic activity” (90).
In this way, culture can be seen to play a key role in forming our understandings of musical, educational, and religious practices. Yet, representations of culture as part of teaching and learning music are only the starting point of understanding, if such perfect clarity is at all achievable. As Baldwin, Faulkner, and Hecht (2006) caution, “any attempt to describe a ‘culture’ serves at best as a fuzzy snapshot. . . . First, it leaves out what is not within the frame of the camera’s lens (obscuring the complexity, ‘essentializing’ a culture). Second, it reduces to a still picture what actually is a dynamic, ever-changing entity (it ‘reifies’ the cultural description of a group)” (17). In this sense, what is referred to as culture may be understood as a process wherein “phenomena [religious beliefs, communal rituals or shared traditions] are produced through systems of meaning, through structures of power, and through the institutions in which these are deployed” (Donald and Rattansi 1992, 4). This understanding of culture as something we do is also reflected in conceptualizations of music as social action (for example, Elliott and Silverman 2015; Small 1997). Thus, when we refer to culture, or cultural differences, as products of identity work, or expressions of belonging, we may simultaneously neglect the ideological conflicts of interest that continually (re)produce and shape our understandings of what these are in the first place. The notion of culture as the ongoing site of ideological contestation and a mechanism of control in each of the domains of music, education, and religion raises questions of how we might address accumulative blind spots and epistemic ignorance when attending to phenomena at the intersection of all three.
While the chapters in this volume aptly illustrate the complexity and challenge of pinning down exactly what we mean by culture—be it musical, educational, or religious—one future challenge that we share is to reflect on the power structures that define and confine culture. If, as Miettinen’s (chap. 16) and Boyce Tillman’s (chap. 15) chapters argue, we all live and act in the “in between,” rather than doing away with the concepts of identification or cultural affiliation altogether, perhaps we can find meaning in the processes that produce them. In considering the political dimensions by which individuals claim or assign similarities or differences in relation to others, and the interpretations and roles we play in these processes as researchers, we ought to consider which outcomes are legitimized and made possible and which are not. Through whose value systems do we view the world (see also Boyce-Tillman 2014)? Whose voices are heard when we engage in intercultural encounters and negotiations? Who is it that we are writing about when we consider music “as a part of social and cultural experience” (Jorgensen, chap. 1)? Who are we advocating for, when we say that music offers possibilities to learn “about cultures and difference through performance . . . as social action” (Westerlund, Kallio, and Partti, chap. 3), or as a means to engage “youth culture” (Fletcher and Barrett, chap. 4)? As Marie McCarthy (2015) has argued, we need to move beyond representation in our efforts for inclusion. If we seek opportunities for “radical inclusion” (Boyce-Tillman, chap. 15), we need to consider not only the deficits in opportunities for participation but also deficits in the capacity to listen, understand, and engage with diverse voices, musics, spiritualties, cosmologies, pedagogies, and onto-epistemologies. These imperatives hold just as true when working within academic culture and research as when engaging in musical, educational, and religious practices.
Living and Learning in Relation
As the chapters of this book traverse the terrain of socioreligious, musical, and cultural differences, a central theme that arises is that of social change. Yet, as Yob notes in her chapter (17), change remains an elusive concept. In exploring what forms social change might take hold at the intersection of music, education, and religion, I follow a metaphor used by Marie McCarthy (2013), who describes the process of music making and learning as “a landscape of relational consciousness” (6), in conceptualizing of social change as relational, contextual, and always uncertain.
Boyce-Tillman’s chapter (15) notes that in encountering musical difference, students may challenge their own value systems “and they move along on their own spiritual journey—to explore the ‘betweens’ within it.” This notion of betweens is important and offers an additional consideration about encounters with differences that often focus on dichotomies of self and Other, sacred and secular. In her chapter (17), Yob describes a number of entities that have been conceptualized as distinct and in opposition to one another, such as town and gown, or community and university, and church and state. The social change that she envisions is located in betweens, in relational processes of “working with others” in ways that acknowledge difference. Elizabeth Ellsworth (2005) characterizes the unpredictability of learning as a relational, transitional space: “Learning never takes place in the absence of bodies, emotions, place, time, sound, image, self-experience, history. It always detours through memory, forgetting, desire, fear, pleasure, surprise, rewriting. And because learning takes place in relation, its detours take us up to and sometimes across the boundaries of habit, recognition, and the socially constructed identities within ourselves” (55).
Relationality is thus more than the drawing of connections between the self and Others in that it also involves the multiple relationships that one has with oneself, as well as those that one forges with “second worlds” of the “sacred sphere” (Spychiger, chap. 9). In this sense, forging new paths in relation requires an acceptance of uncertainty and “unfinishedness” (Freire 2014), as illustrated by the process of relational recognition and learning that Badarne and Ehrlich (chap. 18) have embarked upon.
Positioning music, education, and religion as relational doings, each may be seen as “a double-edged sword . . . [affecting] human beings for good or ill” (Kim, chap. 12). Acknowledging the betweenness arising from living-in-relation, a number of chapters also highlight the importance and complexity of navigating the middle paths forged toward socially just policies and practices. For instance, Westerlund, Kallio, and Partti (chap. 3) argue against assumptions of secular neutrality or consensus in favor of attending to the ethical, political, and agential dimensions of musical performance. Kertz-Welzel (chap. 11) and Badarne and Ehrlich (chap. 18) both emphasize the importance of a reflexive, dialectal approach, although in very different contexts. Yob (chap. 17) envisions social change as twofold, as “social justice (creating equity and fairness) or empowerment (building self-efficacy, self-esteem, and personal value).” These chapters all remind us that the notion of social justice itself is not impartial and can guide educators and scholars not only toward inclusion and positive social change but also toward exclusion and oppression. Jorgensen (chap. 1) offers the example of a young girl in Australia who “may learn to play the didgeridoo in a publicly supported school, even though she is denied it in her traditional culture.” In this seemingly simple vignette, Jorgensen illustrates how social justice can be employed in line with the values of gender equality for the individual while simultaneously appealing to oppressive, colonial conceptions of “traditional culture” (which includes musical and cosmological beliefs and practices) as primitive and irrational. Such experiences open up new spaces to discuss the ideologies and values underpinning discourses of human rights, decolonization, and equality. Social justice, and practicing respect, is clearly a more complex endeavor than doing unto others “as you would have them do to you” (Lk 6:31, NIV).
Invitations and Imaginings
As the first edited volume attending to the intersection of music, education, and religion in recent decades, Music, Education, and Religion: Intersections and Entanglements embraces a wide range of perspectives in attending to the ways in which these three areas fuse, overlap, connect, or conflict in various contexts. Yet the questions arising within and between these chapters are far from resolved. Reaching beyond conceptions of music, education, and religion as distinct, fixed entities, this book invites the reader to consider the identities, cultures, values, and experiences of teachers, students, musicians, believers, and atheists alike as complex, dynamic, and always in (re)formation. Furthermore, it also serves as an invitation to reflect on our own ideological underpinnings and the voices, contexts, or beliefs not included within these pages. In critically attending to the questions of “who am I, why am I and what should I do as well as the questions of ultimate meaning, nature and purpose of life” (Ubani 2013, 43), this book offers new opportunities to also ask “who should I be, how can I be, and what is possible to do?” in looking to the future and engaging our own existential imaginations.
This chapter has been written as part of the Global Visions through Mobilizing Networks project funded by the Academy of Finland (project number 286162).
ALEXIS ANJA KALLIO is a music education researcher at the Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts–Helsinki, working as part of the Global Visions through Mobilizing Networks: Co-developing Intercultural Music Teacher Education in Finland, Israel, and Nepal project. She is coeditor of the Nordic Yearbook of Music Education Research.
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