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The Senator George J.Mitchell Institute
for Global Peace, Security and Justice

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Can Music End Conflict?

Professor Fiona Magowan explores 'Ethnomusicology and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Politics of Persuasion and Peacebuilding' at the Annual U2 Conference held at Queen's University in Belfast.

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The U2 Conference 2018 met from 13-15 June, 2018, in Belfast at Queen’s University in partnership with The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, Queen’s, the National Museums of Northern Ireland, and Fitzroy Presbyterian Church.

Professor Fiona Magowan lecture explored 'Ethnomusicology and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Politics of Persuasion and Peacebuilding'.

As a conference theme, U2: POPVision invites investigating, articulating and critiquing the guiding visions specific to U2’s Pop era of 1997-98 for their efficacy then and now, as well as welcoming an examination of popular music’s power to cast visions that shape its own narrative and construct and complicate larger cultural conversations, in which U2’s visions have long been engaged.

U2 continues to wrestle with themes of innocence and experience, thus the conference looked back 20 years to the Pop era that held both in tension. In addition to exploring U2’s Pop era in the context of popular culture’s ongoing story, U2: POPVision indicates the conference’s belief that Popera contradictions, re-mix cultures, appeals for plurality and inclusivity speak as loudly in 2018 as some 20 years ago. U2: POPVision presumes a subversion and celebration of excess and a dance of the serious and superficial are necessary for compelling engagements with topics affecting large, diverse populations. U2: POPVision asks if what U2 expresses is central to and in tension with 21st century sensibilities, rapid messaging, social media practices, cultures of performance, expressions of faith and doubt, and reckonings with privilege, alienation and fragmentation.

As Belfast marked the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in 2018  – a major step as a peaceful agreement to seek non-violent resolutions to many conflicts in Northern Ireland, and an agreement which U2 publicly supported – the conference theme U2: POPVision further communicates the interest in studying how U2’s artistic visions help or hinder peace building, resolving personal and societal conflicts, and envisioning a more just, equitable and joyful world. An important theme of the conference is thus the wider relationship between music, art and peacebuilding.


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The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice
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