One point of departure of this study is the intensified national interest at the policy level in Swedish kulturskolor (Community Schools of Music and Arts) as an inclusive and accessible institution. Yet, the field can be described as torn between tradition and change. The field’s tra- ditional features can be understood as associated with the music field’s institutional discourses.
The aim of the study is to deepen our understanding of Swedish kulturskolor as a field in relation to the political mission to strive for widening participation. The theoretical perspective of Bourdieu is applied at an overarching level, supplemented with discourse theo- retical perspectives. Discourses are understood as resources in actors’ positioning in the field.
This mixed-methods study is based on a survey of 2413 sixth-graders, focus group conversations with 18 teachers, and interviews with five principals of seven kulturskolor. The results of article I identify the typical student as a Swedish-born girl with well-educated parents, in line with Bourdieu’s theory of cultural reproduction. It is suggested that a “kulturskola-appropriate habitus” contributes to children’s satisfaction in their studies.
In article II–IV, teachers’ and principals’ strategies for widening participation incor- porated various measures from inclusion in existing tradition to inclusion through a wide range of flexible and short-term courses. The strategies and positions are interpreted as orthodox versus heterodox strategies to legitimize the programmes.
The theoretically informed conclusions describe the field as heteronomous and affected by media, politics, and economics – a phenomenon interpreted as comprising cross-field effects. Despite the field’s diminishing autonomy, teachers and principals are seen as power- ful actors who are encouraged to take action in shaping conditions for participation in the kulturskolor of the future.