Music, accountability, and the mobile phone: song-writing with Africans in Sicily

Rachel Beckles Willson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The southern edges of Europe are territories of arrival for asylum seekers who have variously been trafficked across Africa, imprisoned, sold as slaves, tortured in Libya, and smuggled over the ocean. They carry their fraught histories into European spaces of intensifying racial intolerance, coming to be absorbed in a type of conflict that has become normalised (Braidotti 2011). How can a musical practice engage critically and productively with this situation? How can it resist increasingly fascistic practices by state actors?

My paper reflects on the challenge in the context of my recent fieldwork in eastern Sicily, where I have been running a song-writing and recording project with under-age arrivals from Bangladesh, Egypt and West African countries. The space in which I have worked is a laboratory for developing accountability for Europe's actions (Danewid 2017) and constructing networks for shared futures.

Ethnomusicologically, a central interest of my article is our use of technology, specifically how the mobile phone has been a tool in reconfiguring relationships between us, which are structured by racial, gendered and socio-economic inequalities. I will demonstrate how it has facilitated collaborative and dialogic work that would otherwise be impossible, contributing to the breakdown of hegemonic epistemologies and practices (Malcolmson 2014). I will also reflect on its disadvantages, and the ironies that technologies embedded within the military-industrial complex can emerge as creative facilitators in grass-roots projects of resistance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEthnomusicology Forum
Publication statusIn preparation - 2019

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