The MMRC conducts research on the role music plays in the context of relationships between hegemonic and marginalized social groups within societies. What are the (constantly changing) meanings and values of music of and for marginalized groups and individuals?
This includes local, national and global levels, the consideration of socio-political conditions, a historical perspective, and the dominant group’s impact. Likewise, both ethnomusicological research and sociopolitical engagement play an equally important role in MMRC's work.
There are several research areas currently emerging, due to the interest of researchers affiliated to the MMRC, due to political realities and due to the expertise that has been developed at the mdw over the years.
One of our key terms is minority. Being aware of the fluidity of the concept of minorities, we propose the following definition as a working tool expecting that future research will bring new insights:
The term minority refers to communities, groups and/or individuals that are at higher risk of discrimination on grounds of ethnicity, race, religion, language, gender, sexual orientation, disability, political opinion, displacement and social or economic deprivation. These identity markers may and often do intersect. Due to the diversity of discrimination mechanisms and the historical development of certain groups different socio-political agendas may emerge. Minorities can only be defined in relation to a dominant group, since these two poles co-define each other in hegemonic discourse. This relation is a power relation, not a numerical one.
(Based on the current definition of the ICTM Study Group on Music and Minorities, www.ictmusic.org/group/music-and-minorities, August 6, 2019)
The MMRC acknowledges various approaches to research on music and minorities. Presently, the center focuses on these guiding principles:
There are diverse approaches to engaged/applied ethnomusicology. At the MMRC, it is regarded as a philosophical approach to the study of music in culture, with social responsibility and social justice as guiding principles. In practice, engaged research considers possibilities in which scientific and scholarly work can find an audience outside academia and contribute to the reduction of xenophobia, racism and violence through the arts, particularly music. It thus facilitates the further promotion of what has been the focus of ethnomusicological minority research from its very beginning: to fight discrimination, to promote respect and to influence society at large through research on music. The MMRC intends to act in the broader social sphere, in reference to the dynamics of Austrian society at large as well as on an international scale, towards various social actors such as politicians and decision makers, and a broader public.
Dialogic knowledge production
Whereas the previous principle asks the question of who benefits from ethnomusicological knowledge, the next question would be how this knowledge should be produced. In that respect, the methodology of ethnomusicology is specific: ethnomusicologists work with both people and their music in order to gain understanding through experience, and to produce knowledge. The MMRC approaches fieldwork as a process that involves different knowledges, those of the research partners as well as those of the researchers. In a collaborative approach, all actors involved express what they are willing to contribute. Different perspectives on knowledge production are subject to negotiations involving all actors. In this sense, achievements and formats that emerge from the research process remain a matter of constant discussion. This is the MMRC's vision towards dialogic ways of knowledge production, with the objective of blurring and ultimately dissolving the elitist distinction between researchers and research "objects/subjects".
Countering power imbalances
There is an awareness that there are structures that produce and maintain power imbalances and hegemony, such as structural racism, colonialism, and heteronormativity. The center re-thinks ethnomusicological theories and methods in order to expose and avoid approaches that reinforce such structures. Scholarship is seen in close collaboration with activists and communities, bringing up minority issues and re-shaping our ways of reading them. In the center's research, we intend to reveal imperceptible norms deriving from hegemonic concepts, and address the ways in which they are embedded in musical practices.