Beyond "Mzansi Golden Economy": Inequality, wellbeing, and the political economy of music as youth development in South Africa

Laryssa Whittaker

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis investigates music education provided by non-profit organisations in South Africa as a means of countering socio-economic inequality. I focus on the case study of the national organisation known as the Field Band Foundation (FBF), with whom I undertook an intensive period of research in 2012. The FBF is a non-governmental organisation that has been working nationwide since 1997 to create opportunities for the development of "life skills" in youth in predominantly socio-economically underprivileged communities through music education. I examine the origins of their work in the politics and economics of post-apartheid South Africa, and the rationale behind the choice of music as the medium through which hey accomplish their goals. I examine their educational programme, in connection with literature on education and skills development in global, neoliberal economies. Engaging with the "capabilities approach" developed by Amartya Sen, and connecting these thoughts with the political significance of notions of the "good life" discussed in economic and philosophical terms, I apply theoretical frameworks to the work of the FBF, analysing the ability of the organisation's programme to increase the capabilities and thus the well-being of participants. I provide an ethnographic account of participants' assessments of the impact of their participation in the programme upon multiple dimensions of well-being- physical, social, psychological, spiritual and financial. I discuss the ways in which this evaluation may indicate the success of the FBF's programme and indicate areas for future development. I conclude by pointing toward a broader theory of music for positive social change grounded in political economic analysis of global economies and societies.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Ramnarine, Tina K., Supervisor
Award date1 Feb 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


  • South Africa
  • ethnomusicology
  • youth development
  • cultural policy
  • neoliberalism
  • non-governmental organisations
  • civil society
  • economics
  • education
  • life skills
  • Field Band Foundation
  • brass bands
  • marching bands
  • African music
  • political economy

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