Losing my Western Baggage: An autobiographical case for relocating human rights within cultural studies discourse


  • Pearl Hunt Simon Fraser University




What is it about music that allows people to transcend difference? Can what we learn about music’s abilities inform an enhanced conversation of difference and be applied to the theory of education and critical pedagogy? These questions form the basis of my inquiry into music and social change, an investigation that I have largely focused in North America during the twentieth century. I had the opportunity to further this inquiry and explore the structural roots of music while participating in an adult education conference at the source of Nile in Uganda in the year 2004. The following personal narrative articulates my experiences in Africa and is an attempt to counter the dominant paternalistic hegemony often ascribed towards Africa and its people. In the course of actually losing my luggage, I became aware of Africa and the Africans I met as a place and people of generosity and discovery. In particular, I have been inspired by Africans’ writing both within the continent and in the Diaspora, continue to offer to both cultural studies theory and cultural practices. It is within the framework of cultural studies and human rights theory that I begin to identify a space in which music operates as a collective entity. By building north-south and east-west dialogues, working within and outside the academy, African intellectuals, activists, and artists continue to enrich our cultural landscape. My writing then, is an initial attempt to demonstrate the need to develop a more inclusive critical pedagogy that will benefit from the work of African scholarship and practice.