Anti-Oppressive Pedagogy as an Opportunity for Consciousness Raising in the Music Therapy Profession: A Critical Disability Studies Perspective

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In critical disability studies informed pedagogic literature, the academy has been widely cited as an ableist institution: the training ground for the professions of normalcy (Mitchell, 2016). Music therapy could readily be complicit in this normalising discourse with its potential to pathologise participants and to maintain a strict ‘normative divide’ between the professionals it trains and the participants who engage with its provision (Hadley, 2013). Activists, advocates and disabled therapists have posed a welcome challenge to this positioning in recent times, but pedagogical dimensions of music therapy training have received less attention.
This paper explores the potential for applying Kumashiro’s (2000) typologies of anti-oppressive education in music therapy training. Kumashiro’s (2000) four typologies (education for the other, education about the other, education that is critical of privileging and othering, and education that changes students and society) offer opportunities to problematise existing pedagogies and practices and to critically reflect upon the potential of a curriculum framed by social justice perspectives. These approaches have potential to centre and prioritise marginalised voices and acknowledge expertise in lived experience (Kapp, 2019), reframing Otherness in music therapy curricula.
Through critically considering the ontological and epistemological challenges of existing and future music therapy pedagogy, this paper invites reflection upon the paradigms of disability perpetuated in music therapy education which may contribute to discourses of either normalisation or maximisation. Consciousness raising in music therapy pedagogy and in the wider music therapy profession is advocated through engagement with critical disability studies theory and philosophy (Pickard, 2020).


Hadley, S. (2013). Dominant Narratives: Complicity and the Need for Vigilance in the Creative Arts Therapies. The Arts in Psychotherapy. 40. 373-381.
Kapp, S. (Ed) (2019). Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement: Stories from the Front Line. Palgrave Macmillan.
Kumashiro, K. K. (2000). Toward a Theory of Anti-oppressive Education. Review of Educational Research. 70(1). 25-53.
Mitchell, D. (2016). Disability, Diversity and Diversion: Normalization and Avoidance in Higher Education. In D. Bolt and C. Penketh (Eds). Disability, Avoidance and the Academy: Challenging Resistance. Routledge. 9-20.
Pickard, B. (2020). Challenging Deficit-Based Discourse in Higher Education Through a Social Connection Model of Responsibility: A Critical Disability Studies Perspective. Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of South Wales, UK.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2022
EventThe 12th European Music Therapy Conference: Music Therapy in Progress: Please Disturb - Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 8 Jun 202212 Jun 2022


ConferenceThe 12th European Music Therapy Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • music therapy
  • anti-oppressive pedagogy
  • social justice
  • consciousness raising
  • disability studies
  • critical disability studies


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