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Struggling for integration: universalist and separatist discourses within El Sistema Sweden

Journal article
Authors Åsa Bergman
Monica Lindgren
Eva Sæther
Published in Music Education Research
Volume 18
Issue 4
Pages 364-375
ISSN 1461-3808
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Cultural Sciences
Academy of Music and Drama
Pages 364-375
Language en
Keywords El Sistema Sweden; integration; postcolonial theory; ethnography; discourse analysis
Subject categories Music education, Arts


This article focuses on the El Sistema programme, which started up in Sweden in 2010 with the objective to deal with segregation problems typical for Swedish urban areas. The purpose of the article is to examine how promoting integration through music and music education is constructed within El Sistema as a way to help children growing up in multi-ethnic suburbs participate in Swedish society. The empirical material used derives from two different ethnographic research studies conducted in Gothenburg and Malmö. The results show that integration is constructed through two antagonistic discourses competing for hegemony. In the first, the idea of integration is based on a rhetoric of similarities between people playing music together, a rhetoric drawing on the modernist idea of humans as universal and alike. In the second, integration is articulated through a rhetoric of differences related to cultural affiliation.

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