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PORTRAITS OF SAHARAWI MUSIC: WHEN CULTURAL PRESERVATION MEETS POLITICAL ACTIVISM

Violeta Ruano Posada

Abstract


Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork done mainly in the Saharawi refugee camps and the development of “Portraits of Saharawi Music” (2013–2014), a collaborative music archiving and research project in partnership with the British Library and the Saharawi Ministry of Culture, this article analyses issues in the political realities for Saharawi refugees from the perspective of the musicians and the cultural authorities in the refugee camps. In addition, it explores methodological and ethical issues derived from the uses of political and cultural activism as an ethnomusicological research method. It examines the interactions of the ideologies, motivations and personal relationships of the researcher, the musicians and the institutions involved in this recording project, focusing on the selection of repertoire as an activist act and the impact of doing advocacy research on an extremely vulnerable social group as the Saharawi refugee community. In agreement with basic principles of social responsibility of academia, it supports the role of “activist researcher”; but it cautions that it is essential for researchers to understand how relations of knowledge and power are produced, perpetuated, and challenged in specific situations of conflict, in order to turn their research into a true collaborative action.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21504/amj.v10i2.2040

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