Political and Social Change through Music

Get Complete Project Material File(s) Now! »


We need a sweet survival, love revival, Peace Train Make a heart connection, sweet affection, Peace Train Come on get on, come on get on, get on The Peace Train
–Peace Train by Sharon Katz & Bolden Abrams Jr. (1993/Adapted 2016)


The multi-faceted nature of Sharon Katz’s activism lends itself to an in-depth multiple case study. Qualitative case study methodology, which has been employed in a variety of disciplines, will be used to understand and theorise musical activism through detailed contextual analyses of five significant sets of related events in the life and work of Sharon Katz. Social scientists have made wide use of this qualitative research method to examine contemporary real-life situations
The main purpose of case studies is to document and analyse the contributions of an individual or group whose actions and motivation give researchers a common language about the topic in question. Bromley (1990: p.302) describes the case study as “a systematic inquiry into an event or a set of related events which aims to describe and explain the phenomenon of interest”. Robert K. Yin (2009: p.18) defines the case study research method as an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context; when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clear, and in which multiple sources of evidence are used.
There are two key approaches to conducting case studies: one proposed by Robert Stake (2006) and the second by Robert Yin (2003). In both approaches, “the first objective of a case study is to understand the case” (Stake 2006: p.2), to ensure that the topic of interest is well explored, and that the central idea of the phenomenon is revealed, but the methods that each employ are quite different and worthy of discussion. First, both Stake (2006) and Yin (2003) base their approach to case study research on the constructivist paradigm. According to Fosnot (1996):
The theories of Piaget, Vygotsky, and all the semiotic interactionists provide a basis for a psychological theory of learning called constructivism. Implied in all is the idea that we as human beings have no access to an objective reality since we are constructing our version of it, while at the same time transforming it and ourselves (p.23).
Baxter and Jack (2008) argue that “Constructivists claim that truth is relative and that it is dependent on one’s perspective” (p.545). This theory has garnered both widespread interest and debate. In their “philosophical underpinnings” of the case study, Baxter and Jack expand on this paradigm as follows:
This paradigm “recognizes the importance of the subjective human creation of meaning, but doesn’t reject outright some notion of objectivity. Pluralism, not relativism, is stressed with focus on the circular dynamic tension of subject and object” (Miller & Crabtree 1999: p.10). Constructivism is built upon the premise of a social construction of reality […]. One of the advantages of this approach is the close collaboration between the researcher and the participant, while enabling participants to tell their stories […]. Through these stories the participants are able to describe their views of reality and this enables the researcher to better understand the participants’ actions […]. (ibid.)
Fosnot (1996) asserts that, “We cannot understand an individual’s cognition structure without observing it interacting in context, within a culture” (p. 24). This social basis of Vygotsky’s approach is described succinctly by Scribner (1990) who states:
Vygotsky’s special genius was in grasping the significance of the social in things as well as people. The world in which we live is humanised, full of material and symbolic objects (signs, knowledge systems) that are culturally constructed, historical in origin and social in content. Since all human actions, including acts of thought, involve the mediation of such objects […] they are, on this score alone, social in essence. This is the case, whether acts are initiated by single agents or a collective and whether they are performed individually or with others. (p. 92)
This mediation of human actions in culture is central to Vygotsky’s constructivist theory which underscores the analysis of my research.
A possible drawback associated with the case study methodology is that there is a tendency for researchers to attempt to answer a question that is too broad or a topic that has too many objectives for one study. Herein lie differences among researchers. To obviate this problem, several authors including Yin (2003) and Stake (2006) have suggested narrowing the scope of one’s research. Creswell (2003) recommends restricting a case by time and place. Miles and Huberman (1994) propose curtailing one’s research by definition and context while Stake (1995) proposes confining the case study or studies by time and activity. My research most closely aligns with Stake. This research will be bound by time and activity since I begin with Katz’ journey from her early work in music therapy in the United States to the formation of the Peace Train in South Africa in 1993, focusing on five significant experiences, all of which demonstrate activism through music.
Yin (2003) stresses the importance of clearly articulating one’s theoretical perspective. In this research, the theoretical framework is based on activism through music. Yin also places importance on the goals of the study, selecting one’s subject or subjects, and selecting the appropriate method or methods of collecting data. This qualitative case study is an approach to research that facilitates exploration of a phenomenon using a variety of data sources. According to Baxter and Jack (2008), “this ensures that the issue is not explored through one lens, but rather a variety of lenses which allows for multiple facets of the phenomenon to be revealed and understood” (p.544).
The case study of Sharon Katz and the varied experiences of activism through music: The Peace Train project; the formation of the non-profit, Friends of the Peace Train, which facilitated support for Mama Mary Lwate and her work with HIV/AIDS prevention and education in rural areas; Katz’ work with (in her words) a “graduate” of the Peace Train in the building of a school in KwaNgcolosi; her performances that include narratives of life under apartheid rule in South Africa which serve as constant reminders of discriminatory practices that do not support favourable outcomes for the people; her workshops and educational efforts in schools and colleges across the United States—all provide the many lenses through which activism may be viewed.
The selection of a specific type of case study design is guided by the overall study purpose. Yin (2003) and Stake (1995) use different terms to describe a variety of case studies. Yin identifies three categories of case studies that he describes as descriptive, exploratory or explanatory, exploratory. In exploratory case studies any phenomenon in collected data which may pique the interest of the researcher may be explored. In exploratory cases, fieldwork and initial data collection (though not always) may be conducted prior to the formulation of research questions. A pilot study may be an example of an exploratory case study.
In descriptive case studies the researcher describes the data as they occur which lends itself to a narrative form. Descriptive cases require a theoretical framework before the research is conducted. Explanatory case studies examine both the superficial and in-depth aspects of data to explain the phenomenon in the data. This is particularly useful when investigating certain phenomena in complex and multivariate cases.
Stake (1995) categorizes case studies as instrumental, intrinsic, or collective. When a researcher demonstrates a personal interest in the case study, the term “intrinsic” applies. An instrumental case is used for a deeper level of understanding than may be observed while a collective case study refers to research of a group of cases.
Yin (2009) also differentiates between single, holistic case studies and multiple case studies. Since my research documents and analyses more than one type of event, it will be viewed through the lens of a multiple-case study. The difference between a single holistic case study with embedded units and a multiple case study is that the ‘embedded units’ in the former are overtly connected with one another, whereas the context in the latter is different for each of the cases. A multiple or collective case study allows the researcher to analyse the data within each setting and across settings. In this multiple case study, I examine five cases related to the primary subject, Sharon Katz, to provide insights into the musical activism of the subject in different settings. Yin (2003) explains the outcomes of multiple case studies which is a research design that may be employed to either “predict similar results (a literal replication) or predict contrasting results but for predictable reasons (a theoretical replication)” (p. 47).
My research evolved into a multi-case study as significant events emerged during the proposal stage. I did not know at the beginning of my research that Katz had been trying to complete the documentary, When Voices Meet, which premiered in July 2015. The American Peace Train Tour of July 2016 was created only after my interviews with participants of the first Peace Train Tour of 1993 and the screenings of the documentary in July 2015. My research became a dynamic process. I realised that the documentary and the tour of 2016 were too substantial to omit from my study. However, I have limited the parameters of my study to the end of the American Peace Train Tour of 2016.
Stake (2006) clearly outlines the rationale for a multiple case study:
A multi-case study starts with recognizing what concept or idea binds the cases together. Sometimes this concept needs to be targeted…the cases to be studied may each have a different relationship with the quintain28. Some may be model cases, and others may have only an incidental relationship. If other considerations are satisfied, cases will be selected because they represent the program or phenomenon…when cases are selected carefully, the design of a study can incorporate a diversity of contexts. (p. 23)
There are pros and cons to using this type of research design. While the evidence from this type of study is considered robust and reliable, it can also be extremely time consuming and expensive to conduct, challenges that I have worked hard to overcome.
Although Stake and Yin refer to conceptual frameworks, they do not fully describe them or provide a model of a conceptual framework for reference. One resource that provides examples of conceptual frameworks is Miles, Huberman and Saldaña (2013). These authors outline several purposes of conceptual frameworks, such as, identifying who will and will not be included in the study, describing what relationships may be present based “A quintain (pronounced kwin’ton) is an object or phenomenon or condition to be studied – a target” (Stake 2006: p. 6). on logic, theory and/or experience, and providing the researcher with the opportunity to gather general constructs into intellectual “bins” (p.21). In my study, the framework of activism through music will anchor the interpretation of data collected.



In April 2013, I had a chance encounter with Sharon Katz when she performed at Café Lena, a historic performance venue in Saratoga Springs, upstate New York. I had no prior knowledge of Sharon Katz. I attended the concert because it is very rare for a South African performer to appear at an upstate New York venue, three and a half hours away from New York City. As a South African living and working in the United States, I am always scouring the media for performances by South African artists because I want to support them, and these performances fulfil a nostalgia for my home country.
I was immediately struck by her performance repertoire which included a wide variety of traditional South African folk songs, protest songs, and her own compositions. The interesting aspect of her performance style was the way in which she interwove a South African narrative through her music. This narrative focused on political, social and cultural aspects of South Africa as the country bore the struggles of apartheid and released the spirit of the people who used music, song and dance to create an atmosphere of togetherness and healing moving forward.
After meeting with Katz during the intermission, we maintained contact through e-mail and telephone. I was most intrigued by her journey in music as the founder and performer of the Peace Train. Katz expressed a willingness to share her experiences and life’s work with me for purposes of this research. The primary informant, then, through unstructured, semi-structured and in-depth interviews was the founder of the Peace Train initiative, Sharon Katz. Other informants include students, teachers, performers and organizers who have first-hand knowledge of her activism projects. According to Seidman (2006), “at the root of in-depth interviewing is an interest in understanding the lived experience of other people and the meaning they make of that experience” (p. 9).
After several informal conversations with Sharon Katz since 2013, I conducted an in-depth interview at her home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States on 15 October 2016. This interview was central to collating information regarding her life, her song-writing process, her influences and her musical style. During previous conversations, I was able to acquire a list of other informants from her, who were subsequently contacted and interviewed, for my research in South Africa and America.
Interviews were set up through face to face contact and through e-mail to gather insights into their experiences. Fabian (1990) focuses on the importance of conversation and verbal communication as opposed to observation as a basis for ethnographic research29 (p. 5). Interviews were recorded, whenever possible, to ensure an accurate review and/or transcription of material.
Several interviews were conducted for the individual case studies at many different locations in Durban and in Pretoria, South Africa. They were usually at the home of the respondent or a central location. The spaces selected were relatively quiet with a good degree of privacy. The interviews were usually an hour long, with a few running a little longer. The respondents signed the “informed consent” document after they were reminded of the purpose of the interviews. All respondents in South Africa indicated that they were prepared to forego the condition of anonymity as they were eager to have their narratives documented. Although my research questions were similar for each respondent for each case study, the less structured format of the interview allowed me to explore slightly different lines of inquiry based on the unique feedback from each respondent.

1.1 Background and Context
1.2 Historical Backdrop to Music and Resistance in South Africa from 1948
1.3 The Objectives of the Study
1.4 The Research Problem
1.5 The Research Questions
2.1 Musical Activism: A Theoretical Framework
2.2 Political and Social Change through Music
2.3 The Role of “Freedom Songs” and “Peace Songs” in Social Transformation .
2.4 Promoting Understanding and Peace through Music
2.5 The Healing Power of Music
2.6 Music as Social Text in Everyday Lives
2.7 Related Audio-Visual Material
2.8 Mediating Access to Communities
2.9 Negotiating Whiteness in Apartheid South Africa
3.1 Research Design
3.2 Data Collection Sources and Techniques
3.3 Data Analysis and Interpretation
3.4 Issues of Reliability and Validity
3.5 Ethical Considerations
4.1 Biographical Details: An Interview with Sharon Katz
4.2 Case Study 1: Music Therapy – “From Gang Members to Band Members
4.3 Case Study 2: Performance – The South African Peace Train Initiative
4.4 Case Study 3: Humanitarian Efforts – Friends of the Peace Train
5.1 Case Study 4: The Documentary – When Voices Meet
5.2 Case Study 5: The America Peace Train Tour of 2016
6.1 The Political and Social Activism of Sharon Katz
6.2 Musical Activities and Social Change
6.3 Strategies of Cultural Activism
6.5 Sharon Katz as Musical Activist in the Apartheid Era and Beyond
6.6 Additional Implications
6.7 Limitations of the Study
6.8 Recommendations for Future Research

Related Posts