Playing with the enemy: Investigating the impact of musical peacebuilding.

in: Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology 27(2), 2021, 324–328,
With Niels van Doesum.

Musical performances are frequently used in peacebuilding initiatives. Can performing music together indeed change interpersonal and intergroup perceptions of the other as the enemy? Using contact theory for our theoretical framework, we hypothesize that the specific mechanism of listening during active music-making helps to establish the positive effects of intergroup contact. Additionally, we explore to what extent participants become peace facilitators when returning to their home environments. In two small-scale studies, we find preliminary support for active listening as a mechanism of trust-enhancing contact. However, this effect mainly surfaces in unstructured encounters within the larger organized structure, like late-night chamber music jam sessions. Repeated participation builds the necessary trust for a new common ingroup. Because participation is mostly driven by career and performance motivations, we argue that peacebuilding through musical performances may help overcome the common selection bias in research on contact theory.

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