Assistant Professor, Languages and Cultures Department
Assistant Professor Guilnard Moufarrej is an ethnomusicologist who specializes in Arabic music and culture in the Arab world and the diaspora. Her research areas include: music and social protest, music therapy among war-traumatized children, music and language, music and gender, and music and liturgy in Near Eastern Christian churches. Her forthcoming article “Protest Songs, Social Media, and the Exploitation of Syrian Children” discusses the use of Syrian children in music and social media as a propaganda tool during the recent war in Syria. In her article, which is based on virtual ethnography that she conducted between 2015 and 2017, she argues that the use of children by different militant groups to disseminate political ideologies and to mobilize local and diasporic communities is a form of child exploitation.
Dr. Moufarrej’s research on music therapy deals with the effective role of music for Syrian refugee children who are at a high risk for developing PTSD symptoms. In Spring 2018, she collaborated with Midn. David Alicea on a research project about the use of music among children in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. They gave a presentation on this topic on March 24, 2018, at the annual meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology at the University of Maryland. Dr. Moufarrej will be presenting again on this topic, in November 2018, during the annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology in Albuquerque in New Mexico. She argues that the successful use of music therapy among war veterans with PTSD symptoms can be applied to war-traumatized children. However, in order to be effective, the music should account for the age of the children and their cultural and social environments. Currently, she is collaborating with Emmy nominated Syrian-American composer Kareem Roustom to arrange and record a repertoire of folk songs in Arabic and other local languages to be taught to displaced and refugee Syrian children.
The relationship between music and language is another area of interest for Dr. Moufarrej, and relates to her teaching in the Languages and Cultures Department at the Naval Academy. In Spring 2017, she conducted a study among her students in the intermediate Arabic class on the effective role of songs in vocabulary retention. She based her research on 1) previous studies by language educators and linguists on the role of music in foreign language acquisition and 2) recent findings by neuroscientists on the correlation between speech functions and music functions in the brain. She presented her findings in June 2017, in collaboration with a colleague, at the Neurosciences and Music conference at Harvard University. They have co-authored an article that is currently under review.
In her work on gender issues in the Arab world, Dr. Moufarrej examines the female-empowering role of music in a male-dominated society. She is looking, specifically, into the role of four Lebanese female singers, who during the Lebanese war (1975-1990), became the voice of their people and emerged as national figures, earning popular respect and extending their fame to other parts of the Arab world. She presented a paper on this topic in November 2017 during the annual meeting of the Middle East Study Association (MESA) and she is currently writing an article on this subject.
Music and liturgy in Near Eastern churches is another area of research for Dr. Moufarrej. Her work among the Maronite Church and community in the United States complements her original work on the Maronite Church in Lebanon. In her research, she focuses on the role of music and liturgy in delineating the church’s religious and ethnic identities and in building a Maronite community in the diaspora. Since she deals with an indigenous church that dates back to the fifth century, she combines in her work archival and ethnographic research thus using history to help understand the present. She has conducted fieldwork among different communities in the United States. In August 2018, she attended the 85th annual festival of the Maronite church in Wheeling, West Virginia, where she documented the different religious and social activities that took place during the two-day event, and conducted interviews with the pastor, parishioners, and musicians. She is currently writing an article on this community.