Playing with the enemy. The impact of collaborative musical performance as arts-based peacebuilding

Funding: Leiden University Fund/ Gratama Foundation

Investigators: Dr. Gisela Hirschmann (Political Science), Dr. Niels van Doesum (Social Psychology)


Violent conflicts between states or within states have a strong impact on the identity and the mutual perception of individuals and groups. A society’s youth is particularly affected as its identity formation is still in process and heavily shaped by conflict. Therefore, peacebuilding activities increasingly engage with youth through musical activities in order to support a peace-oriented and reconciliatory identity development. Music-based peacebuilding is expected to enhance prosocial behavior particularly well. Playing together in an orchestra requires listening to each other while working towards a joint performance without competing. This pilot study investigates the impact of such arts-based peacebuilding activities in youth orchestras in which members from conflict areas perform together.

Cooperating with youth orchestras from four current or past conflict settings, we study how the participation in these projects changes the perceptions of young musicians. What are the conditions under which these musical peacebuilding activities enhance prosocial behavior among participants during the activity and upon their return in their home environments? By studying different types of peacebuilding activities, this inter-disciplinary project will provide first evidence-based insights into best practices of effective musical peacebuilding for scholars and practitioners alike.

Both investigators are assistant professors at Leiden University with professional careers as musicians (violin and opera singing).

We recently published a research report in the Journal of Peace Psychology.