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Subject conceptions in relation to the gendered body as the performing instrument

Konferensbidrag (offentliggjort, men ej förlagsutgivet)
Författare Carina Borgström Källén
Publicerad i The Annual Conference of the Nordic Network for Research in Music Education, February 13-15
Publiceringsår 2018
Publicerad vid Högskolan för scen och musik
Språk en
Ämneskategorier Musikpedagogik


The purpose of this paper presentation is to highlight and problematize subject conceptions in vocal training and in dance classes, using the unbalanced representation that previous research has recognized in these educational contexts as a point of departure. The vocal education in upper secondary school and in higher education is focused, and parallels are drawn to dance classes in upper secondary school. More precisely, the presentation has a gender theoretical and intersectional perspective and the objective is a discussion on how to include bodies and vocal expressions that currently risk exclusion due to discourses that regulate teaching traditions, content and norms for quality. The paper poses the following questions: How can the meaning of the performing art heritage of music and dance education be understood in relation to the way vocal and dance training as school subjects are conceptualized? What subject-specific similarities can be found in subject conceptions in vocal training and in dance classes? The fact that girls and women are overrepresented in educational contexts that are specialized in vocal and dance training is well known, as well as the fact that girls in the early school years participate in dance and song activities in organized form to a much greater extent than boys in corresponding ages. It is also well-known that specialized art education in general mainly recruits students from privileged socioeconomic backgrounds. Previous research also shows that subject conceptions in music and dance education stem from a Western classical music and dance tradition, and that this heritage still governs norms for quality. The empirical data that underlines the presentation is three completed studies, two studies produced in Swedish upper secondary schools and one in Swedish higher music education. The design approached for analysis is a qualitative meta-analysis, asking two questions to the data; What common denominators could be found for dance and vocal education? How could they be understood from the way subject conceptions are constructed in a gender theoretical and intersectional perspective? The result verifies the body of previous research that suggests that subject conception in vocal and dance education is based on performing arts traditions, rather than on pedagogical/didactical traditions. Another finding is that vocal and dance teachers’ educational background is essential for how subject conceptions are constructed. The result shows that the teachers all have a similar progressive chain of education. In these chains of education knowledge is often produced based on a master-apprentice ideal, and discussion about tradition and quality risks stagnating. The result also indicates that in vocal training, as well as in dance classes, settings where the body is the instrument, the teachers’ gaze and bodily displayed multimodal language have a governing function. Further, the results indicate that a fictive stage and the gaze of a fictive audience are present and taken for granted in the classroom, and they are used as didactic tools for learning. The interplay between the performing body, the classroom as a stage and the scrutinizing gaze, from the teacher and from a fictive audience, is thereby internalized and bodily displayed by the student, i.e. the body, the place and the gaze are understood as a hub for learning.

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