Popular Music and Social Justice in the Dialogical Classroom

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  • Title: Popular Music and Social Justice in the Dialogical Classroom
  • Author(s): Lisa Parkins
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: The Arts in Society
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Arts Education
  • Keywords: Arts Education, Music, Song, Activism
  • Volume: 14
  • Issue: 1
  • Year: 2019
  • ISSN: 2326-9944 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2327-0306 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2326-9944/CGP/v14i01/35-44
  • Citation: Parkins, Lisa . 2019. "Popular Music and Social Justice in the Dialogical Classroom." The International Journal of Arts Education 14 (1): 35-44. doi:10.18848/2326-9944/CGP/v14i01/35-44.
  • Extent: 10 pages


The arts education environment is a potent site for investigating the development of sociopolitical movements. This paper discusses a group study, Popular Music and Social Justice, presented at a public college for adult learners in New York City during the first days of the Trump Administration. Motivated to explore the history of protest music, this diverse group of students participated in songwriting processes in response to current issues. Analysis of this transdisciplinary study is informed by Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of dialogism, bell hooks’ definition of education as the practice of freedom, and Gaston Bachelard’s poetics of interior spaces. The essay asks the following questions: How did participants’ discursive engagement with twentieth-century social movements, cultural traditions, and the music of activism empower them to enact new ways of being in the world together? And, how does a radically open, embodied approach to arts pedagogy foster students in becoming critically informed about crucial local and global issues? Finally, how was a quotidian classroom transformed into a meeting place in which students freely accessed and shared their personal imagery of everyday life, identity, and cultures? The confluence of hybrid classroom strategies led to the culminating project—a collaboratively created song of resistance.