SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

Music, Nation and Conflict in Jerusalem

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2018/2019
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 Jaffa in the historical context of violent conflict and nation-building;
  • Understand the role that musicians play in mediating conflict in Jaffa;
  • 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 Jaffa;
  • Consider the role that musicians play in violent conflicts;
  • Explain the ethnosymbolic images of nation in Israel-Palestine;
  • Frame the musical soundscapes of Jaffa 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 Jaffa has changed hands three 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 former Palestinian capital, and the current sister city of megalith Tel Aviv, the residents of the city take the city’s place in history and culture 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 Jaffa set it apart from Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Tel Aviv because history and erasure weigh so heavily on daily interactions. In this class, students learn to contextualize the diverse musical practices in a contested/“mixed” city, and to discern the multiple dimensions of musical life in conflict zones.


  • “The Bride of the Sea”: Jaffa in Levantine history and folklore
  • “Jaffa Shattered”: What Happened in ‘48
  • Jaffa as Metonym: the Mixed City
  • “White City/Black City”: Jaffa as Tel Aviv’s shadow
  • Musical Borderlands: Where Jaffa ends and TLV begins
  • Mizrahi music: New Immigrants in an Old City
  • ‘Ajami: Snapshot of a Neighbourhood in Transition
  • Hassan Bek Mosque: the Call to Prayer Under Pressure
  • Tzfonim come in: Gentrification of an Urban Soundscape
  • “The Intifada is There”: Jaffa as Space of Trauma and Reconciliation

Method of assessment

  • One 1,500 word essay (worth 30%)
  • One 3,500 word essay (worth 70%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules