Accepted Paper:

The sound of selves. About music therapy improvisations with Alzheimer's patients in Northern Italy. Personhood, politics and the senses  

Author:

Leonardo Menegola (University of Milano Bicocca)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyzes improvisations with patients suffering with Alzheimer disease, discussing how MT treatments embody particular conceptualizations of illness and care, by vesting patients with a particular kind of agency and personhood, and by raising "other senses" in the work of therapy.

Paper long abstract:

This paper bases on fourteen-years fieldwork in a retirement home in Milan, Italy, holding a double role as a PhD medical anthropologist and a music therapist myself.

By analyzing improvisations with patients suffering with Alzheimer disease, I discuss how non-verbal communication underpins forms of knowledge that help representing the meaningfulness of therapy and its mechanisms of efficacy.

Medical anthropological reflection highlights that MT treatments embody particular conceptualizations of illness (Young 1995) and care, by vesting patients with a particular kind of agency and personhood.

What kind of knowledges is MT based on - both as a social and historical phenomenon, and as an object of ethnographic research?

Anthropological description of MT treatments draws on "somatic modes of attention" (Csordas 1993) in order to analyse how the interactions between music therapists and patients organize the therapy's meaning. How the improvisational soundscapes (Kheshti 2009) the therapist and the patient share rely on specific codifications of feelings and performative formations (configurations) of sensoriality, which raise "other senses" in therapy's work?

By answering these questions, the paper shows that the "sense of healing" in MT is based on particular politics of personhood and the Self, which in their turn are based on particular kinds of interactions carried out in MT sessions. Finally, epistemological-methodological reflection is proposed on the challenges of the music therapist-ethnographer double role, and on how the forms of sensorial, performative, non-verbal knowledge music therapy builds on raise gnoseological questions on an anthropology of and through the senses (Stoller 1997, Classen 1997).

Panel Medi04
Techniques of transformation, healing movements, and medicine worlds