Social Justice and Decolonization in Music Study Discussion Group

AJ Kluth

Where: Ames Family Atrium | Cleveland Art Museum
When: Fridays (Fall 21) from 1:00 - 3:00 PM

For more information contact Dr. AJ Kluth or graduate assistant Rafique Illyas-Watson <>. 

How are arts and music education implicated in issues of race and class? How might we (re)imagine the role of the music institution as inclusive in terms of access and representation? Is ethical arts education possible in the neoliberal university?


As an outgrowth of my fall semester course offering at CWRU (MUHI 390/450), I’m starting a discussion group for conversations about social justice and decolonization in institutional music study construed broadly. If these topics interest you, I invite you to hang out and share your ideas with us.

Institutional music study is implicated in the (re)production of inequity in the arts and society at large. The course MUHI 390/450 has been having some great talks, but I want to invite more voices to join the conversation about how we can grow our critical consciousness about the topic(s) and engage in praxis in our communities. There's no reason this process should be bound by the syllabus or university calendar.

To that end, I and the Graduate Teaching Assistant, Rafique Illyas-Watson, are holding informal time in the atrium of the Cleveland Art Museum on Fridays for anybody that'd like to hang out and talk about these topics.

Come through! -- AJ Kluth

If you’d like to talk specifically about course topics/readings addressed in MUHI 390/450, email AJ Kluth or Rafique Illyas-Watson at for access to a Google Doc folder with the course syllabus and relevant texts. 

Come through and share your ideas, questions, and concerns, no prep is needed. Anyone regardless of major or affiliation is welcome to the conversation, either addressing course content or branching out to related topics.


MUHI 390/450: Social Justice & Decolonization in Music Study

Topics: music, pedagogy, imperialism, power, epistemology, ontology, race, ethnicity, gender, social justice, dispossession, value extraction, political economies

Effective responses to growing calls to engage with issues of decolonization in institutions of higher learning are challenging to understand and effectively address – music’s slipperiness seems to compound perceived challenges. By interrogating previous assumptions that comprise music study, we are led to ask not only what music might be, but also what the university and music degrees are for; to interrogate the type of knowledge and value production in which we are engaged. In this course, we will work to gain a better understanding of how we might respond to received material and ideological legacies of colonization as we reconsider and remake music study in an ever-more compassionate and inclusive world. Our approach to the project of decolonization* in music study is speculative in that it is historical and theoretical but oriented toward the construction of a new world. To be sure, music study is our primary object of analysis. However, through readings in postcolonial theory, feminist study, etc., we will gain a better vernacular to understanding how we got here, what’s at stake, and what ways forward in music study may look like.

*Some of what we’ll engage with is more correctly termed “social justice.” As we will discuss, calling anything critical of imperialist, capitalist, white supremacist patriarchy “decolonization” is a category mistake that risks diminishing or confusing relevant discourse and action.