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Music and Social Justice Resources Project
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Rev. Matthew Mickens and the Highway Travelers performing on the steps of the
South Carolina State House at an Anti-Confederate Flag Rally, June 2015.
Photo by Doug Peach.


The Society for Ethnomusicology’s Music and Social Justice Resources Project is a repository of material on how people worldwide are currently using music to address issues of social conflict, exclusion/inclusion, and justice. We welcome notices on public events (e.g., rallies, performances, conferences) and other general news; proposals/reports on projects involving community engagement, activism, or advocacy; syllabi, lesson plans, and other educational material; information on activist organizations; and research articles.

Please submit through our online form: 1) Word or PDF files, or 2) website links. Include a one-sentence description for each item sent.

Points of contact for suggestions and questions: Marysol Quevedo (Program Specialist), sem@indiana.edu; Stephen Stuempfle (Executive Director), semexec@indiana.edu.

Listed below is an initial sampling of material. Send your items now and help SEM build a forum for the exchange of information on the power of music in today’s world!

Click on the links below to navigate the categories within the page:

General News

Applied Projects






General News

The Calais Sessions. An album of recordings made at the refugee camp in Calais, France.

Conscious Acts of Culture. Initiated through Facebook, this project disseminates information on cultural events that promote unity and solidarity throughout the world.

Giving Voice to Hope: Music of Liberian Refugees. Album of music by Liberian refugees in the Buduburam Refugee Settlement located in Accra, Ghana.

Giving Voice to Health: Sanitation and Safe Water - Music for Social Justice in Liberia. "Sanitation" is a critical documentary music video about the dire health issues afflicting post-war Liberia and much of the developing world: unsafe water, inadequate waste facilities, and resulting disease.

Music and Sustainability. Jeff Titon's blog on music and sustainability, ongoing since 2008, has several entries over the years on music, sound, social, and environmental justice. 

Peace, Empathy and Conciliation through Music: A Collaboratory. SEP 21-22, 2017 | The University of Melbourne Let's share ideas around the ways that music is used to develop peace, empathy and conciliation. We invite submissions from local, national and international researchers and practitioners, and hope that the symposium will produce thought-provoking discussion and fruitful partnerships between industry, community and education sectors.

Applied Projects

Appeal for a Sound Commons for All Living Creatures. 2012 essay in Smithsonian Folkways Magazine calling for a sound commons for the benefit of all living creatures. Shows how sound, social justice, and environmental justice are mutually dependent and interconnected.

Cantos Cautivos. An online archive of songs created in the context of political detention and torture in Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship. The website and archive are in Spanish, and affiliated with the Chilean Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos.

Global Music Matters. This blog, edited by Gregory Melchor-Barz, highlights musicians who produce socially conscious, socially relevant music tracks, and folks who are trying to make the world a better place.

Music for Global Human Development. Music for Global Human Development (M4GHD) is an approach to applied ethnomusicology that entails participatory action research projects in music & development (humanized in aims and methods), centered on global collaborations between academics, NGOs, government organizations, musicians, and others, applying ethnomusicology to real-world social issues, focusing on peoples who have been marginalized--socially, politically, economically--by colonialism and its aftermath, whether in the "developing" world or not, and linking them to others across the globe.

Music in Liminal Spaces. This is a Fulbright-mtvU-produced documentary film series from ethnomusicologist Jeff Roy on how LGBT musicians and dancers in India navigate tradition, modernity and globalization in order to craft their urban identities. The 14 films employ participatory filmmaking methods to reveal how music and dance construct and negotiate identities as sites of resistance and self-affirmation within the context of social gatherings, political protests and religious rituals.

Owning My Masters: The Rhetorics of Rhymes and Revolutions. Dissertation project using music to explore historical memory and archiving using hip-hop to interrogate ideas such as identity, justice, economics, citizenship, and language. Through aptly lyrical and poetic vocabulary this project challenges the notion that some voices and expressions are more identifiably academic, scholarly, philosophical, or even distinctly human than others.

Sounds Beyond the Border. Syrian refugees’ migration experience in Turkey. Sounds beyond Border Interview Series strive to understand Syrian musicians’ experience of migration through music. As a response to homogenizing and exclusionary perspectives, the Series aim to draw attention to the refugees’ talents and practices, the diversity they bring to our geography and the possibilities of a common cultural world.

Protest chants, transcribed. A blog containing transcriptions and videos of chants from protests since Donald Trump's inauguration.

Bridge to Everywhere. Bridge to Everywhere is an ensemble and arts organization dedicated to promoting inclusivity in classical music, not only in who is listening and playing, but also in the music itself.


Building Peace Through Music. K-12 lesson plan developed by the U.S. Institute for Peace, featuring Colombian rock star and human rights activist Juanes.

This Is A Music: Reclaiming An Untouchable Drum Lesson Plan and Video. A group of outcaste Parai frame drummers in Tamil Nadu, India go through a process of psychological and economic transformation to reclaim their performance as respectable (not polluted), gaining positive acclaim at the Chennai Sangamam folk festival, but struggle to sustain these changes back in their village.

Caminhando e Cantando: The Pilgrimage of the Forest. Ethnographic video highlighting role of music and sound in the Romaria da Floresta, pilgrimage held annually in Brazilian Amazon to honor murdered land reform and liberation theology activists.

See The Stripes Campaign (Clemson University). Student-led campaign to help highlight the overlooked complex racial history of Clemson University.

World Music Pedagogy course. This 40-hour intensive course, offered at the University of Washington and various other sites*, is relevant to teaching world music, meeting diversity mandates in music, and launching activist social justice projects through music. Faculty in ethnomusicology and education join community artist-musicians to service K-16 teachers in music, the humanities, and the sciences. *2017 sites include Indiana University, St. Thomas University, and West Virginia University


Freemuse. An international membership organization advocating and defending freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide.

Musicians Without Borders. An international organization that uses the power of music to bridge divides, connect communities, and heal the wounds of war.

Usina da imaginação/Shine a Light use digital media and music to express local issues and changing society.

Association for Cultural Equity (ACE) ACE works to stimulate cultural equity through preservation, research, and dissemination of the world's traditional music, and to reconnect people and communities with their creative heritage.

Tambores de Siloé Mini-Documentary (Spanish). A short documentary about the CSR-funded project in Cali, Colombia through which marginalized children learn social skills for peaceful coexistence through percussion-based music. PDF file.

Musicians for Human Rights. The mission of Musicians For Human Rights is to foster a culture of humanism through music in the United States and worldwide, in support of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Harmony Project. Harmony Project is a non-profit organization with a mission of connecting people across social divides through the arts, education, and volunteer community service. Working together, we build a social infrastructure that unites the community for the greater good, bringing about real results in real time.

The Dream Unfinished. The Dream Unfinished is an activist orchestra which supports NYC-based civil rights and community organizations through concerts and presentations.

The Kate Schulte Foundation is dedicated to furthering the cause of equal justice, equal rights, and equal opportunity for all through the arts. It fosters and presents art that promotes this cause. It provides educational opportunities that encourage an understanding of the relationship between the arts and equality. It presents art experiences that build community.



Activist Ethnomusicology and Marginalized Music of South Asia” In this essay Zoe Sherinian explores how South Asian activist ethnomusicology can contribute methodology and theory to the wider discipline. Focusing on dialogical processes from two case studies of Tamil Dalit folk music from her fieldwork and filmmaking, Sherinian interrogates ways to approach local contexts where there are intense hierarchies of musical value and where oppressed subgroups use music to assert identity and cultural politics of revaluation through methods of participant activism that contribute to Dalit Action Theory.

Politiques des musiques populaires au XXIe siècle. "Changing the Tune. Popular music and politics in the XXIst century." Conference proceedings. Introduction.

Theorizing Social Transformation. Theorizes social transformation with examples of American civil rights movement and South Africa's apartheid as examples of 'occupational reconstruction'.

Music sustainability and social justice. A research project (2017-) led by Catherine Grant (Brisbane, Australia) exploring the links between issues of social justice - including climate change, poverty, and the global refugee crisis - and the sustainability of music traditions. Contact welcome: catherine.grant@griffith.edu.au

Music, development and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. by Gillian Howell. A report on an intercultural music festival project to support and promote reconciliation in post-war Sri Lanka.

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