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Democracy through pop?

Thinking with intersectionality in popular music education in finnish schools

Minja Koskela

This article-based doctoral dissertation is an inquiry into the conditions required for democractic popular music education (PME) in Finnish basic education. Although critical research on PME in Finland has recently increased, the rapid diversification of Finnish society due to migration calls for a more profound exploration of the practices of PME in school with respect to the intersecting identities of students. The inquiry questions previous claims that popular music is students’ ‘own’ music and, therefore, a democratic medium through which to teach music. The democracy argument has led to PME becoming an internationally recognized and hegemonic feature of schooling in Finland. The overarching question guiding the inquiry is: On what and on whose terms is the democracy of PME in Finnish school music education constructed and enacted?

Methodologically, this inquiry engages in the inquiry as stance tradition as the practitioner- researcher explores her own PME teaching context. The research was conducted with an optional music class of 22 lower secondary school students in one Finnish school in which lessons consisted mainly of playing and singing popular music pieces chosen by the students. The empirical material includes videotaped lessons (n=7), student interviews (n=14), a teacher-researcher diary, and the National Core Curricula for basic education and music (2004 and 2014). Reflexivity was enacted in three stages: self-reflexivity, inter-reflexivity between two researchers, and systems reflexivity. The inquiry as stance tradition was deepened by engaging with the thinking with theory approach with and through Kimberlé Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality and Chantal Mouffe’s theory of radical democracy. The data were analysed by first using qualitative content analysis and (deductively) coding the transcriptions and curricula texts, then using insight-driven analysis and, finally, thinking with theory to interpret the codes.

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