Music and health communication in The Gambia: A social capital approach

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    Drawing on ethnographic research with kanyeleng fertility society performers and health workers in The Gambia (2012–2013), this paper uses a social capital approach to analyze the relationship between musical performance and health communication. Health communication research has demonstrated the important role of social capital in mediating the impact of interventions. Music research has drawn attention to performance as a site in which social relationships and obligations are produced and negotiated. In this paper, I bring these two perspectives together in order to open up new ways of thinking about musical performance as a culturally appropriate strategy in health communication. Drawing on participant observation as well as individual and group interviews with performers and health workers (126 participants), I argue that kanyeleng performance facilitates health communication by building on existing social networks and forms of social capital. This research contributes to a paradigm shift in research on performance and health communication, moving away from individual-focused behaviour change communication, and toward a culture-centered approach that considers community participation in relation to broader social and structural issues. This research suggests that musical genres such as kanyeleng performance may help build trust between health professionals and target communities while also facilitating information dissemination and public debate on sensitive health topics.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)132-140
    Number of pages9
    JournalSocial Science and Medicine
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


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