Current Institutional Affiliation
Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Musicology, Jewish Music Research Center

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Ethnomusicology/Music, University of Rochester
Soundscapes of the Old City of Jerusalem: Musical Practice, Communal Identity, and the Politics of Place

The city of Jerusalem is one of the most hotly contested spaces in the world. Employing an array of strategies, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities in the city stake their claims to particular (often overlapping) areas and create boundaries of varying degrees of permeability. Sound and music are among many tools Jerusalemite communities exploit to assert control over meaningful spaces and delineate communal identities while simultaneously undermining boundaries and mediating between neighboring groups. Within the context of both monumental and everyday spaces, my research will reveal how the significance of holy sites intensifies debates between competing ideologies regarding music and illuminate how sound and music are implicated in highly charged territorial politics. First, I examine the ways in which various types of public musical performance— such as religious rituals, processionals, and civic demonstrations—reveal constructed relationships with the places of performance. Second, I investigate inter-group dynamics and cultural boundary zones, that is, the politics of who can be heard where and how prominently. I address ways in which various power relations determine the nature of Jerusalem’s soundscapes, including nationalist struggles, gender politics, and tensions between liberal and orthodox ideologies. I am following certain protest movements in particular. Lastly, I demonstrate that the relationships between various groups and the space of Jerusalem is, in fact, a complex of multiple, transnational affiliations and loyalties; the factors that shape the Jerusalem soundscape are by no means bounded by the walls of the city. By approaching Jerusalem from a cross-cultural perspective, I aim to deepen our understanding of the ways in which various communities express their relationships to a place whose status continues to be a source of conflict, and to expound on how soundscapes constitute part of the cultural infrastructure of demographically-diverse urban centers worldwide.