The power within music : human rights in the context of music

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Soltani, Sara
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'Music has an elaborate history in human civilization' (Washington/Beecher 2010: 129) by providing one of humanity's most essential cultural expressions and being instrumentalized in diverse ways. The power of music to mobilize people through propaganda, express rights claims through protest songs or simply define one's cultural identity has been examined in various disciplines. Yet, music as a research subject in the field of human rights is still in its infancy. This thesis analyses the field of music through four human rights perspectives. The first perspective focuses on the instrumentalisation of music in order to promote human rights. The case study of the East-Western Divan Orchestra shows an example of a musical sphere where musicians from Palestine, Israel, Iran, etc. meet in respect of the principle of non-discrimination and equal treatment. The second perspective presents the inherent role of music in the field of cultural rights. Within this context the Austrian association United Heartbeat has served as a case study. This case study can be relevant for the human rights discourse on two levels. Firstly, the association gives people, who were forced to leave behind almost every cultural right, part of their cultural identity back. This access to music does secondly, not only give them the right to participate in their 'own' cultural life but also in the culture of the receiving country. The third perspective demonstrates the challenges and discriminations that minorities and musicians of colour face within the field of music. Especially in the world of classical music, cultural stereotypes and social constructions often hinder non-discriminatory policies and equal treatment. Music does not only function as a medium for inclusion but also for exclusion and as a marker of hierarchy. The fourth perspective approaches the area under scrutiny through the field of freedom of expression through music. Two case studies of Iranian musicians serve as empirical approaches to censorship on music and the violation of freedom of artistic expression. Finally, this thesis suggests avenues for further research within the field of music and human rights.
Second semester University: University of Southern Denmark / Danish Institute for Human Rights
music, human rights, freedom of expression, minority rights, cultural rights