Music, agency, and social transformation: Processes of subjectivation in a Palestinian community music program

  • Kim Boeskov Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, Denmark


In this article, a community music program in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon is explored by means of ethnographic methods of participant observation and semistructured interviews. Judith Butler’s notion of subjectivation is employed in an analysis of how the participants are constituted as national subjects in and through the musical practice. By analyzing the specific instances of agency that this constitution entails, it is argued that even as the musical practice works to consolidate established norms of national belonging and identity, it also enables participants to resignify Palestinian identity in ways that counter experiences of marginalization, exceed certain social norms, and expand the categories through which their existence becomes meaningful. Conceiving a community music practice as a subjectivating practice may prove useful for scholars seeking to analyze musical-social work in terms of its capacity for social transformation, while retaining a critical perspective on the formative and socially reproductive character of such practices.

Original Articles
community music, Palestinian refugees, subjectivation, agency, social transformation