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The Senator George J.Mitchell Institute
for Global Peace, Security and Justice

'Contested Resonances' Conference 29th-30th July 2021

Engaging Digitally with Young People in Marginalised and Conflict- Affected Settings

Dr Edwar Calderón, Universidad EAFIT and Dr Marlies Kustatscher, University of Edinburgh

Music and arts are prominent features in transforming the lives of young people, and an important expression of Afrocolombian and indigenous heritage and culture in the context of our project (Fals Borda 2000). Through their unique emotional intensity, music and arts offer immediate experiences of embodied and collective identity (Frith 1996). However, little is known so far about if and how the unique advantages of music- and arts-based methodologies can be translated into digital contexts when working with marginalised and conflict-affected youth.

The restrictions on in-person interactions due to the current Covid-19 pandemic have transformed pedagogical and methodological approaches in education and research worldwide. Our project “¿Cuál es la verdad? (What is the Truth?) De- constructing collective memories and imagining alternative futures with young people in Chocó” (2019-2021) was severely affected by social distancing and travel restrictions of the pandemic.

This project brought together an international consortium of researchers from Colombia and the United Kingdom, young people, artists, educators and civil society organisations with the aim to co-produce a music- and arts-based methodology responding to priorities identified by young people in Quibdó: tensions between neighbourhoods (barrios), violence, and visualising alternative futures.

This presentation details the considerations and planning that went into adapting our music- and arts-based methodology to a fully digital approach in response to the pandemic, including our steps to enable inclusivity, accessibility and ethical integrity when working with young people who have been ‘marginalised’ due to structural exclusion based on socioeconomic background, race, ethnicity, gender or location, as well as armed conflict and precariousness. We present our digital five-phase approach of working with 19 young co-researchers, which included the “Yincana” (our digital interpretation of a traditional game involving 8 weeks of tasks and activities) and our co-production of a digital music- and arts-based methodological toolkit.

Despite the challenges that marginality represents in terms of digital access, most (but importantly, not all) young people in our project were able to participate through some type of technological device. In this sense, participative digital methodologies can enable democratic education and social transformation, but they also require more exhaustive efforts, commitment and more importantly, creativity, in order to engage young populations.

We suggest that digital music- and arts-based tools can provide this creative element and can create a sense of collectivity and embodiment in online engagement with young people. This opens up opportunities for more inclusive, flexible and affordable ways of learning and participation. Our findings conclude that digital music- and arts- based approaches can provide the necessary tools for making the voices of young people living in marginalised and conflict-affected settings heard.

*Please note, all presentations are for academic and research viewing purposes only and cannot be posted in the public domain or used in part or full on any other media platforms or social media sites.   All rights are reserved and held by Participants. For more information regarding licensing/permisssions usage and queries, please contact our Project Manager, Christina Captieux  

The Conference was organised as part of the AHRC/ESRC funded Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research project Sounding Conflict: From Resistance to Reconciliation 2017-2021. 



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The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice
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