Within this study, we present a dialogic autoethnography which focuses on the experiences of a Welsh academic and an English priest living and serving a community in Wales, one of the constituent nations of the United Kingdom. Wales is perceived as one of the modern Celtic nations, and under the Government of Wales Act, (1998), formed its own parliament, known as the Senedd. Wales therefore has an identity which is aligned with but separate to that of the United Kingdom. It is this identity, related to specific elements of Welsh culture, such as music, religion and language, that we explore in this study. We also give consideration to the way in which Welsh identity is assumed by individuals, and how this relates to self-concept.

From the conversational, dialogic autoethnographies, we see a duality of perspectives from the two participants, who appear at first glance to be diametrically opposed in several ways: female and male, chapel and church, Welsh speaker and Welsh learner; this allows us to explore the way in which music has historically and contemporaneously played a part in shaping and nourishing the identities and self-concepts of people within the principality of Wales, whether these people are indigenous or ‘incomers’.

Here, not only do the two researchers write their stories relating to music as an important component of Welsh national and personal identity, but we also add layers of dialogue through commenting on each other’s writing, which allows us to respond in a way which mimics personal conversation and reveals a plethora of complex affiliations, value systems and beliefs. The autoethnographies also allow insight into the societies to which the authors belong, and illustrate the importance of adoption of cultural practice (in this case, Welsh music) as a tool for societal acceptance and belongingness. We build upon previous research focusing on the continuing significance of music, language and religion in shaping and re-shaping Welsh society. As it is impossible to engage with autoethnography without drawing on the contribution of others, the dialogue between the two researchers draws upon interaction with friends, congregations and communities in order to give insight into what it means to identify as Welsh.

Within this paper we explore the emic and etic perspectives that such autoethnographies reveal, which allows us to understand similarities and differences - national, regional and personal - that emanate from the rich, thick data generated by the two participants. We find that whether it is the music of the chapel or the colliery, the arias and anthems of the rugby stadium or the melodies and lyrics that act as tone poems to describe the past or present, Wales lives up to its reputation as a land of song, largely based in non-conformist religion. We note that this musical heritage shows no sign of diminishing, even though society (particularly in Wales) is becoming increasingly secular.

As the two researchers carry out the dialogic exchange, the triad of music, language and faith paint a rich picture that allows insight and understanding of some of the many identities and self-concepts associated with Wales and its inhabitants. We consider what it means for secular choirs to now be the guardians of some of the rousing songs that were birthed in non-conformist religious belief, and examine our own attitudes and feelings associated with music that has significance to us. We find that for the participants at least, music, language and other cultural factors have had a significant hand in the constant shaping of Welsh society, collective and individual identities and self-concept.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2021
EventInternational Symposium on Autoethnography and Narrative 2021 - Virtual
Duration: 2 Jan 20213 Jan 2021
https://iaani.org/

Conference

ConferenceInternational Symposium on Autoethnography and Narrative 2021
Abbreviated titleISAN 2021
Period2/01/213/01/21
Internet address

    Research areas

  • Autoethnography, self-concept, cultural identity, Welsh music, identity

ID: 4435330