Catherine Grant, ‘Intangible cultural heritage and music sustainability’

Partly in response to UNESCO’s pronouncements about the rapid and extensive loss of intangible cultural heritage, research into ‘music sustainability’ has flourished in the last ten to fifteen years. Although the relationship of music sustainability to globalisation, urbanisation, and changing technologies is fairly well understood, we know relatively little about the links between music sustainability, human rights and social justice. These links are deep and complex. They invoke considerations of colonialism and cultural imperialism, power and poverty, racism and xenophobia, and the capitalist forces that fuel global inequalities and undermine the rights of those peoples at the weaker end of global distributions of power.


These links between music sustainability, human rights, and social justice have important humanitarian and cultural implications – particularly for Indigenous, minority, refugee and other peoples who suffer ongoing major cultural losses due to social injustices and human rights violations. Hearteningly, the links also hold far-reaching implications for developing new and especially humane ways to promote cultural and social prosperity and wellbeing. Drawing on my ongoing research collaborations with communities in Cambodia and Vanuatu, in this seminar I explore how sustaining diverse musical expressions may bring gains in human rights and social justice, and vice versa, now and into the future.


Catherine Grant, author of Music Endangerment: How Language Maintenance Can Help (OUP, 2014) and co-editor of Sustainable Futures for Music Cultures (OUP, 2016), was awarded the national Future Justice medal for her research, advocacy and activism on cultural sustainability. Her Endeavour Australia Fellowship examined links between youth poverty and the sustainability of intangible cultural heritage in Cambodia. Senior Lecturer in Music Literature and Research at Griffith University, Catherine has presented her research in Australia, the UK, USA, Vietnam, Vanuatu, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan. Her applied work on music endangerment has featured in media including the Boston Globe, The Australian, The Conversation, The Cambodia Daily, and radio stations in Australia and the USA. Catherine is Chair of the Australia-New Zealand Regional Committee of the International Council for Traditional Music.

Date & time

Wed 15 May 2019, 12am–1pm


Room 2.02, Sir Roland Wilson Building, ANU


Catherine Grant


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