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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Lamont School of Music, Musicology and Ethnomusicology


Scholarship on immigration detention centers as sites for musical exchange and identity formation remain largely unresearched. Adelaida Reyes in her groundbreaking work, Songs of the Caged, Songs of the Free, offers insight into the “heterogeneity” of resettlement camps and their ambiguous sovereignty. Her work, however, does not examine the musical environments and ecologies of modern large-scale immigrant detention centers, nor these center’s specific musical identities. Significant analyses of music programming in detention centers include musicologists Donna Weston and Caroline Lenette’s article, “Performing Freedom: The Role of Music-Making in Creating a Community in Asylum Seeker Detention Centres” and ethnomusicologist Julia Morris’s article,“Coping and Confinement on the Border: The Affective Politics of Music Workshops in British Immigration Detention.” While Weston and Lenette provide insight into the ways that music facilitates community and individual wellbeing in detention centers, Morris examines how music can play a role in potentially both inculcating detainees with a sense of agency while also compounding their oppression when used as a form of social control. Weston and Lenette advocate for community musicking as supporting detainee health, while Morris urges ethnomusicologists to question the goals and implementations of such programs. In this annotated bibliography, I explore these discussions on music programming and its potential to cultivate a sense of empowerment and belonging in detainees. I engage with scholarship that documents music, art, and poetry produced by detained refugees (especially in the Angel Island Detention Center) to understand how music is a form of catharsis and remembrance. Through dialoguing with artists and scholars who investigate connections between music and belonging, acculturation, identity, and dislocation, I seek to provide a nuanced and cross-disciplinary approach to understanding the efficacies and possibilities of detention center reform through music.

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