SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

Music, Nation and Conflict in Jerusalem

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2017/2018
Taught in:
Term 1

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should be able to:

  • Place the music of Israel-Palestine in the historical context of violent conflict and nation-building;
  • Understand the role that musicians play in mediating conflict in Jerusalem;
  • Identify the main strains of protest art, such as graffiti and popular music, that intervene in the political discourse of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;
  • Analyse primary sources that debate the boundaries of the city of Jerusalem;
  • Consider the role that musicians play in violent conflicts;
  • Explain the ethnosymbolic images of nation in Israel-Palestine;
  • Frame the musical soundscapes of Jerusalem in the wider context of musical performance in the Near East and the Jewish world;
  • Articulate the overlapping and/or diverging interests of musical, religious and political leaders.


  • One hour Lecture, one hour Seminar

Scope and syllabus

The city of Jerusalem has changed hands four times in the past century, its residents learning each time a new language and set of laws. The imprint of its turbulent history is apparent in its music, a diverse set of sacred and secular styles that tell stories of loyalty and subversion, piety and hedonism. As the past, current and pending capital of multiple nations and empires, the residents of the city take the city’s place in history and politics seriously, and mobilize music as a method of effecting change and preserving customs. And yet, one finds corners of the city dedicated to marginal religious practice, LGBT raves, progressive protest song, and commercial pop coexisting. The cultural practices of Jerusalem set it apart from Israel and Palestine’s other capital cities (Tel Aviv and Ramallah) because history weighs so heavily on daily interactions. In this class, students learn to contextualize the diverse musical practices in a contested city, and to discern the multiple dimensions of musical life in conflict zones. Sessions are devoted to concepts that structure the lives of Jerusalem's residents:

  • Facing History: Jewish and Levantine musical landscapes before 1948;
  • Music in Nation: the roots of nationalist music and poetry;
  • What Happened in '48: songs and life narratives of conquest and displacement;
  • Music in War: military bands and songs of battle;
  • The Holy City: styles of Adhan, Tajwid and biblical cantillation in Jerusalem;
  • Jerusalem Syndrome: Ecstatic religious experience and Christian liturgy;
  • Music and Ethnicity: Arab musical styles in Jewish neighbourhoods;
  • Women of the Land: Dueling Primordialisms of motherhood in Israeli and Palestinian music;
  • The Other Capitals: the music scene and public sphere in Jerusalem versus Tel Aviv and Ramallah;
  • Facing Berlin, Facing Beirut: Reconfiguring Israeli and Palestinian culture in the twenty-first century.

Method of assessment

  • One 1 000 words essay (worth 30%)
  • One 1 500 words essay (worth 50%)
  • One in class listening test (worth 20%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules