Critical pedagogy has become a crucial element in managing post-migration societies, especially concerning the social cohesion dilemma that diversity creates. Through an ethnography of critical music pedagogy with refugee youth that emerged from an activist context in the city of Dresden, Germany, this article demonstrates what is at stake for empowerment. Music pedagogy that aspires to be critical remains a discursively shallow diversity campaign when self-representations reproduce hegemonic epistemologies of domination. I show that discursive products silence potential reflexivity when political goals overshadow shared learning experiences. There is a theoretical fallacy in understanding critical cross-cultural pedagogy in music through the social change emphasis. Opportunities for communication on equal terms turn into performative acts that idealise the aesthetic sphere of music through discourse. I conceptualise such acts as lingua universalis and describe how they promote an imagined shared sensorial memory that flattens nuances of musical speech, resulting in the dominance of music as a universal language in diversity discourses. My findings lead me to argue for a reconceptualization of music pedagogy through the concept of lingua mundi to capture the individual transgressive acts that do take place and the spaces where care work is possible and allows for empowering one another. © 2024 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

DOI: 10.1080/02560046.2024.2313701
ISSN: 02560046