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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 3.44

Anthropology at the service of children's experience. Between music therapy and social work


  • Dr. Leonardo MENEGOLA

Primary authors


Drawing on one year fieldwork in a social work service for children in difficulty in Milan, Italy, this paper discusses how an anthropological approach has reinforced the methodological and theoretical tools of a music therapy program run with some of these children. Such ideas as fieldwork, community, informant, participant observation, dialogical and narrative methodology; ritual, symbol, embodiment, sensoriality, medical pluralism and comparison, and many other has shed light and provided further effectiveness to the intervention. Thanks to anthropology, on the one hand it was possible to apply a context-sensitive approach to the analysis and understanding of complex contexts. As an example, it was possible to map and to manage the multilevel relationship with different institutions and stake-holder in the field; to highlight the meaningfulness of certain aspects of the diagnosis, as well as the take-in-charge of the little patients, from the diverging perspectives of the different protagonists. On the other, it was possible to deconstruct and analyze the various facets of the therapeutic efficacy of music therapy, basing on phenomenological, narrative, symbolic, sensory, political framework of interpretation. Music therapy in itself is a (scientifically) young discipline, polarized in its nature, strong with reflection and research, but still fragile and exposed to the twofold tension between biomedical hegemony, on the one side, and more a qualitative, experiential cultural framework. How made anthropological perspectives possible to empower a music therapy project, maintaining disciplinary boundaries and epistemological differences, but still hybridizing peculiar cultural discourses in the pursue of the children’s supreme interest?