Department of Music & School of Arts

Dr Ilana Webster-Kogen

Key information

Department of Music Joe Loss Reader in Jewish Music Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies Member Centre of African Studies Member
BA (Columbia); MMus, MA, PhD (London); PFHEA
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
0207 898 4334
Support hours
On research leave 2023-24


Ilana Webster-Kogen is an ethnomusicologist by training, specializing in music, diaspora and ethnicity in the urban Middle East. She was appointed the Joe Loss Lecturer in Jewish Music in 2014, becoming Senior Lecturer in 2019, and works closely with the Jewish Music Institute (JMI) who support her position. Ilana studied Music and Ancient Semitic Languages (BA) followed by Social Anthropology (MA), and wrote her PhD thesis about Ethiopian musicians in Tel Aviv. Her first book, Citizen Azmari: Making Ethiopian Music in Tel Aviv, was published in 2018 with Wesleyan University Press in the Music/Culture series. The book won the Society for Ethnomusicology's Jewish Music section publication prize in 2019.

Ilana's current work explores a triangular circulation network for Moroccan Torah scrolls between north Africa, France and Israel. She considers the migration and trade routes of the scrolls and the people who use them, and she examines biblical cantillation and its attendant gendered and ethnicized performance practices. She commenced this work with the support of the JMI with the inaugural Judeo-Arabic conference-workshop Yallah in London in 2020, which will continue in Morocco in 2021. Ilana's work has appeared in Ethnomusicology Forum, African and Black Diaspora, and the Journal of African Cultural Studies.

At SOAS, Ilana teaches classes on Jewish and Middle Eastern music, hip hop, and critical/cultural theory. In 2018, she became a Senior Fellow of the HEA, and in 2019, she became the Associate Director for Student Experience and Outcomes.

Research interests

Ilana Webster-Kogen's work focuses on music, diaspora and ethnicity in the urban Middle East. Her first book, Citizen Azmari: Making Ethiopian Music in Tel Aviv, was published in 2018 by Wesleyan University Press, for which she conducted fieldwork in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem among Ethiopian immigrants and newer Eritrean asylum seekers. She argues in the book that for migrants from the Horn of Africa, music stands in for political speech as an effective tool for managing personal and communal status in an exclusive state.

Ilana's second book project, "Moroccan Torah Scrolls: Circulation and Empire," is supported by the Jewish Music Institute (JMI). She explores the triangular network of migration and trade that exchanges Torah scrolls and their performance practice between north Africa, France and Israel, with stops in London and Montreal. She launched the project with a JMI-produced workshop-conference on Judeo-Arabic music at SOAS in 2020.

"Moroccan Torah Scrolls" grows out of a broader project Ilana has been conducting since 2017 on the musical life of Manshiyya, a neighbourhood on the Tel Aviv-Jaffa border that was razed following the 1948 war. She examines successive waves of residence on its margins, from Palestinians to Mizrahi immigrants to newer French immigrants of north African origin. She argues that this particular borderland exposes the fault lines of ethnicity and class that shape the right to urban space in the Middle East's most intractable conflict.

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Robbie Campbell 'Dyslexic Ways of Thinking: a reflexive study of Chopi timbila xylophone musicking in Mozambique'
Mr Sam Grant Metal Music and its Relationship to Folk Music and National Identity in the Middle East
Mr Hugo Hadji Listening to New Raï: Algerian identities in the 21st century.
Edoardo Marcarini I Want to Remain Persian: Music, Memory and Identity Among Iranian Jews in Israel
Vicky Tadros Listening, Khaleeji-Style


Contact Ilana