The Ethics and Aesthetics of studying music in situations of conflict and violence: a participatory workshop

20th February, 2018

Room 349, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 2HU

In recent years, music scholars working in diverse situations of conflict and violence have grappled with increasingly complex questions about the ethical dimensions of their work and with the interplay of the personal, professional and political. This workshop explores some of the issues arising from research in such contexts: How do we convey the intensity of embodied experience in violent conflict without resorting to voyeuristic exoticism or minimizing the asymmetry of modern warfare? Is it possible to apply the same ethical principles and analytical paradigms to both victims and perpetrators? What methodological issues arise when we seek to collect ethnographic or archival material or collaborate with non-academics in conflict situations? What ethical issues arise when our research (and careers) are based on the suffering of others? What forms of writing or other media are best suited to representing what we have witnessed or translating our 'findings' for different audiences? Should our disciplinary ethical statements be extended to situations of violent conflict and human rights violations? What kind of support might we ourselves need after exposure to extreme violence or trauma, and where might we find it?

This participatory workshop emerges from a successful panel held at the 2017 British Forum for Ethnomusicology conference, at which it became evident that there is an urgent need for in-depth discussion and for the development of practical strategies for dealing with such issues.

The workshop may be particularly relevant to doctoral students and early career researchers but we welcome scholars from all career stages. Whilst the idea for the workshop arose from discussions among ethnomusicologists, these issues clearly affect a broad range of music scholars and practitioner researchers and we welcome a wide range of participants from across music studies. If there is interest from participants, we have the possibility of composer-focused sessions exploring the ethics of composing with the sounds of protest; issues faced by composers working in conflict or post-conflict zones; and so on.

Attendance is free but advance registration is requested for planning purposes:

Suggested reading will be uploaded to this page over the next few weeks.


9:30 Registration

10:00 Welcome

10:15 Session 1
Conflict, violence and music: identifying the issues

11:30 Coffee

11.45 Session 2
Breakout groups (rooms 349, 104, G22, G26):

A - Ethical Research and Practice: Challenges and Decisions
B - Memory and Experience: Processing Trauma

13:00 Lunch (not provided)

14:00 Session 3
Breakout groups (rooms 349, 104, G22, G26):

C - Methodological and Analytical Perspectives: Challenges and Limitations
D - Writing, Expression and Representation: Conveying Difficult Experiences and Competing Viewpoints

15:15 Tea

15:30 Final plenary: towards best practice (room 349)

17:00 Close


Workshop Facilitators

Caroline Bithell
Jan Hendrickse
Thomas Hilder
Angela Impey
Kerstin Klenke
Clare Launchbury
Hettie Malcomson
Ailís Ní Ríain
Tullis Rennie
Clara Wenz
Abigail Wood
Chloe Zadeh

Workshop Convenors

Caroline Bithell, University of Manchester
Hettie Malcomson, University of Southampton
Laudan Nooshin, City, University of London
Abigail Wood, University of Haifa

Conference Supporters

Institute of Musical Research, in association with the School of Advanced Study, University of London (funding supplied by Nick Baker)
Additional funding from the Royal Musical Association

All enquiries about the workshop should be addressed to Gabrielle Messeder: