Learning together: Practice, pleasure and identity in a Taiko drumming world

Kimberly Anne Powell, Jackie Wiggins

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Through participating in collective practices, performing artists learn to fashion and refashion cultural meanings, often challenging society to reconsider widely held notions not only of the arts but of culture as well. The arts, in effect, create places for aesthetic explorations of culture, identity, and other socially relevant issues. If culture is situated in everyday activity, and learning is where culture is actively created, sustained, and remade, then scholarly examination of such activities can potentially reveal how such complex concepts as culture unfold in everyday practice, and the ways in which those engaged in symbolic systems such as art shape meanings and perceptions of everyday experience. To date, however, there is scant research into the nature of artistic learning as a social and cultural practice. This study examines a performance ensemble that is dedicated to the Japanese American art form known as taiko (the Japanese word for drum) and the ways in which the ensemble organizes learning for its members so that learning includes a sense of its larger social and cultural context, including social action, ethnic identity development, and community preservation. Ethnographic methods of data collection were used. Data collection and analysis are organized using a theoretical framework based largely upon sociocultural theory, which examines the relationship between learning, identity and agency, and theories of artistic and aesthetic knowing. This ethnographic study offers an in-depth analysis of how places of learning construct alternative realities that are central to peripheral peoples - places in which aesthetic education plays a critical role. Findings and implications focus on the embodied experience of taiko, the organization of multiple sensory modalities for the construction of knowledge and identity; the ways in which pedagogy, curriculum and assessment participate in the construction of identity, agency and legitimate practice; and the development of a disposition towards learning that challenges school-based notions of competency, success, and failure. All of these experiences link aesthetic development with a critical pedagogy of local, social action and the larger role of taiko in the Asian American political landscape, suggesting the primacy of aesthetic education in the development of learners as sociopolitical actors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-92
Number of pages4
JournalBulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education
Issue number164
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Music


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