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IR4555   Music, Politics and International Relations

Academic year(s): 2023-2024

Key information

SCOTCAT credits : 30

ECTS credits : 15

Level : SCQF level 10

Semester: 1

Availability restrictions: Not automatically available to General Degree students

Planned timetable: 12.00 noon - 2.00 pm Mon

This module explores the complex relationship between music and politics, focusing on the various ways in which political thinkers, governments, politicians and activists have engaged with music. This is not a module rooted in a narrow disciplinary view of IR, and the reading will draw on cultural studies, musicology, sociology, anthropology and political studies broadly conceived. Engagement with the arts will not necessarily change the world but it might, in Roland Bleiker’s words, encourage a ‘more open ended level of sensibility about the political’; equally, our response to music and other forms of artistic expression, or our choice of what to engage with, may simply reinforce existing prejudices. Underpinning this module will be three broad concerns about music’s contribution to building identity, its role in framing the way we think about social and political issues (domestic and international), and its relationship to power, whether through the reinforcement of existing power structures or in helping to promote resistance and political change. Though very few musicians write explicitly political music, even non-political works can serve to represent or shape group identity, as well as shape our view of the ‘other’; it can be used to mobilise groups to political ends (successfully or otherwise); or used as a means of protest to subvert political orders; and it can be used for ends that the author did not intend – witness the playing of Bach in Nazi death camps or Ronald Reagan’s (far less harmful) use of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’. The first four weeks raise general questions about politics and music, focusing primarily on the nation and the state; the next four weeks exploring issues relation to social protest and identity politics; and the last two weeks focus on musical responses to terrorism and political violence, and selected musical interventions in the twenty-first century. Students taking this class will need to be open to a variety of mostly European and North American musical forms and composers/performers - from Mozart to Kendrick Lamar – though we will briefly dip into the experiences of communist Eastern Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East.

Relationship to other modules

Pre-requisite(s): Before taking this module you must pass IR2006

Learning and teaching methods and delivery

Weekly contact: 1 x 1-hour lecture (x 10 weeks), 1 x 1-hour tutorial (x 9 weeks) + additional contact hours (TBC). 2 hours examination feedback in week 1 of following semester.

Scheduled learning hours: 19

Guided independent study hours: 281

Assessment pattern

As used by St Andrews: 3-hour Written Examination = 50%, Coursework = 50%

As defined by QAA
Written examinations : 50%
Practical examinations : 0%
Coursework: 50%

Re-assessment: 3-hour Written Examination = 100%


Module coordinator: Professor J P Anderson
Module teaching staff: Prof J Anderson