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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A singing sanctuary : identity and resiliency construction in underserved youth through vocal expression Martin, Anna K.


In this ethnography of a youth choir I demonstrate the relationship between youth cultural identity construction and increased resiliency by providing stories and reflections about individual and group expression through voice. I have discovered through my research that it is not only vocal expression through song that supports identity construction and resiliency, but also the space of shared intimacy that is created through musical/vocal agency. I also revealed an underlying tone of youth resistance through voice. Working within the framework of Teacher Action Research I set out to use my findings to aid and inform my teaching practices in support and empowerment of youth in my community. The research methods employed were audio recording, class observation, personal journaling, and interviews (group and individual). I understood that as a participant and as the subject’s teacher that I entered this research with certain biases and assumptions, but at the same time I knew that my proximity to the subject would give me insight in ways that would not be accessible to an outside observer. I was also cognizant of the fact that I was conducting “fieldwork at home,” recognizing through the literature review and research that this methodology also comes with challenges in terms of objectivity and clarity of subject and roles. I drew inspiration and direction from Lila Abu-Lughod, a Palestinian-American professor of Anthropology and Women’s and Gender Studies at Columbia University in New York City, who works in the tradition and methodology of what she calls ethnographies of the particular. Abu-Lughod argues for “the effects of extralocal and long-term processes [that] are only manifested locally and specifically, produced in the actions of individuals living their particular lives, inscribed in their bodies and their words” (1991: 150).

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