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Title: Through the lens of Levinas : an ethnographically-informed case study of pupils' practices of facing in music-making
Author: Jourdan, Kathryn Ruth
ISNI:       0000 0004 5922 7701
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2015
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This study investigates how the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas might shape practice in music education. In a climate of accountability and performativity within wider educational policy-making, the drive for ever-increasing efficiency has overtaken notions of professional judgement and ethical practice. This study opens by introducing current strands of international meta-policy priorities in education, and explores moves to redress the emphasis on standardisation and accountability through the rediscovery of notions of responsibility in the work of Biesta drawing on Bauman (1993), who in turn finds a way forwards in Levinas’ ‘ethics as first philosophy’. Emmanuel Levinas is introduced as a major thinker of the twentieth century whose influence is increasing throughout social science disciplines and who, writing firstly as a teacher, provides valuable philosophical tools with which to investigate current practices in education. Over the past three decades competing paradigms for music education have tended to polarise rather than ground thinking in music education research. More recent notions of music-making as ethical encounter (Bowman, 2000) and as the practice of hospitality (Higgins, 2007) have taken forwards Small’s relationship-oriented conceptualisation of ‘musicking’ (1998), and these provide the starting point for this study’s search for an ethical underpinning for music education. Levinas’ first major work (1969) provides two key strands of thought – the polarities of totality and infinity, and the exhortation to ‘look into the face of the Other’. These tools open up explorations of how pupils encounter difference, the unfamiliar, and of how narrow conceptions of learning in the music classroom may be understood as an ethical problem. At the heart of this study is the report of ethnographically-informed fieldwork undertaken in a Scottish secondary school, following a group of 13-year-olds through an academic year of class music lessons. Participant observation and semi-structured interviews were methods employed alongside participant self-documentation in order to gather pupils’ experiences and perspectives on how they encounter the Other through their music-making at school and in their everyday lives. A critical realist theoretical framework enabled the experiences and perspectives of pupils to be set within a deep, layered conception of social reality, uncovering the dynamic interplay of structural forces and pupil agency. Through the lens of Levinas’ philosophy pupils’ ‘practices of facing’ were brought to light and conceptualised as agential. ii From these ‘practices of facing’ the study’s conclusions are drawn. Music-making is conceptualised through terms in which Levinas spoke of language, as having as its first impetus a reaching out to the Other, ‘putting a world in common’. This grounds, and is generative of, an epistemological diversity within which aesthetic and praxial approaches are anchored in one underlying, ethical orientation, where the attentiveness and openness of aesthetic sensitivity are as significant as the developing of skills and competencies in enabling an ever-deeper entering-into ‘infinity in the face of the Other’. This study offers a critique of the present educational environment which prioritises predetermined outcomes and narrow models of knowing, thereby, according to a Levinasian view, legitimising practices of violence and domination, and sets out an alternative orientation, where richly contextualised learning in the music classroom and a radical openness might allow for an infinity of possibility to break in.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Social sciences ; Education ; Music education ; Emmanuel Levinas ; philosophy ; music-making ; ethnography