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

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In pedagogic literature informed by critical disability studies, the academy has been widely cited as an ableist institution (Dolmage, 2017): 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 (Straus, 2011) and to maintain a strict ‘normative divide’ (Mitchell, 2016), between the professionals it trains and the participants who engage with its provision (Hadley, 2013; Gottschewski, 2020). Activists, advocates and disabled therapists have posed a welcome challenge to this positioning in recent publications (Curtain et al., 2020; Kalenderidis, 2020; Thompson, 2020), but the pedagogical dimensions of music therapy training in this area 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.

Beckett’s (2015) application of Kumashiro’s (2000) typologies in a disability studies context provides further opportunity to critically consider the ontological and epistemological challenges of existing and future music therapy pedagogy, and invites reflection upon the paradigms of disability perpetuated in music therapy education which may contribute to discourses of either normalisation or maximisation (Pickard et al., 2020).

Through introducing these frameworks for socially just, anti-oppressive pedagogies, this paper invites consciousness raising in music therapy pedagogy and in the wider music therapy profession through engagement with critical disability studies theory and philosophy (Pickard, 2020).
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationMusic Therapy Perspectives
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Feb 2021


  • anti-oppressive education
  • anti-oppressive pedagogy
  • music therapy
  • ableism
  • disability


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