Morag Josephine Grant (Berlin): Music, Conflict and Human Rights


When jurists and others talk about what, in the language of human rights law, is termed “advocacy of […] hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”, they generally reduce this complex phrase to a simple soundbite: “hate speech”. This reduction reflects a wider tendency in our society to view all forms of communication through the lens of verbal language; and this tendency does nothing to help us understand how other forms of expression — such as cartoons, or songs — can also fan the flames of conflict and hatred. As a musicologist, my main interest here is clearly music, but by discussing how the various social functions of musical practices can make them a significant factor in conflict, I also hope to unpack much larger issues arising from our sometimes counterproductive veneration of the principle of free “speech” amid a resurgence of racial and religious intolerance worldwide.

Dr. Morag Josephine Grant

Curriculum Vitae

Morag Josephine Grant studied music and musicology in Glasgow, London and Berlin. She received her doctorate from King’s College London in 1999, for a dissertation on European serial music in the 1950s. In 2005 she was awarded a DFG stipend to pursue research on the cultural history of the Scots song “Auld Lang Syne”. From 2008 to 2014 she was junior professor of social musicology at the University of Göttingen and leader of the research group “Music, Conflict and the State”. Dr. Grant has previously taught at the Humboldt-Universität and at the European College of Liberal Arts in Berlin. Since November 2014 she is Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture”.