Assistant Professor (Ethnomusicology)

Michael Figueroa

Michael A. Figueroa (Assistant Professor) is an ethnomusicologist who specializes in music and politics in the modern Middle East and its diasporas. The first phase of his career has been rooted in ethnographic and archival research in Israel/Palestine, chiefly in the city of Jerusalem. In his first book (nearing completion), he argues that musical Jerusalem has been central to the formation of Israeli political consciousness. In the book, he shows how Israeli musicians have critically shaped their public’s territorial imagination, dispelling notions that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is timeless, intractable, and based on static, essential identities. By combining analyses of musical meaning, political discourse, and public performance with ethnographic investigations of urban life in Jerusalem, the study reveals the multiple ways in which Israelis’ territorial fixation on Jerusalem has been constructed, historically contingent, and subject to artistic intervention.

He has recently embarked on a second major project examining popular music and race consciousness in post-9/11 Arab America. He maintains other interests and publication plans related to the study of music and poetry, performance studies, music technology and global popular music, critical theory, and diaspora studies.

He earned a B.A. in Musicology from Northwestern University (2006) and a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Chicago (2014). His research has been supported by the Ford Foundation, the American Musicological Society, and a Fulbright-IIE fellowship.

Figueroa currently serves as Associate Director of the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies. He is also affiliated with the Department of Asian Studies, the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Cultures, and the Center for Urban and Regional Studies.

  • Office: Hill Hall 209
  • Phone: (919) 962-0906
  • Email:

Hearing the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict; Humans and Machines in Musical Modernity; Introduction to Black Music; Introduction to World Musics; Music and Globalization in the Middle East; Music and Historiography in Israel/Palestine; Music and Poetry; Music and Politics; Music, Sound, and Religion; Resources and Methods of Musicology; World Musics in Theory and Practice

(2018) Book Review: Robert Lachmann: The “Oriental Music” Broadcasts, 1936–1937: A Musical Ethnography of Mandatory Palestine, edited by Ruth F. Davis (Madison, WI: A-R Editions, 2013). Musica Judaica Online Reviews.

(2016) “Aesthetics of Ambivalence: Dan Almagor and Rock Ideology in Israeli Musical Theatre.” Ethnomusicology Forum 25(3): 261–82.

(2016) “Sound and Imagined Border Transgressions in Israel/Palestine.” AJS Perspectives, Spring/Summer: The Sound Issue, 44–45.

(2016) “‘A Magical Substance Flows Into Me’: Recording the Limits of Public Musicology.” Invited post at Musicology Now.

(2013) Book Review: Music, Politics, and Violence edited by Susan Fast and Kip Pegley (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2012). Ethnomusicology Review 18.

(2010) Book Review: Playing Across a Divide: Israeli-Palestinian Musical Encounters by Benjamin Brinner (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). Ethnomusicology 54(3): 518–22.

(2010) Recording Review: Shir Hodu: Jewish Song from Bombay of the ’30s by Sara Manasseh and Julian Futter (Renair, 2010). Pacific Review of Ethnomusicology 15.

Forthcoming or in process:

City of Song: Music and the Making of Modern Jerusalem (monograph)

(w/ Annegret Fauser) Performing Commemoration: Musical Reenactment and the Politics of Trauma (edited volume)

“Musical Memory, Animated Amnesia: The Soundscape of Exoneration in Waltz with Bashir” (article)

“Disciplining Poetry: Ethnomusicology and Oral Performance” (article)

“‘Why Should a Citizen Speak in Broken Lines?’: Sung Poetry and National Sentiment in Israel” (article)

“Echoes of Yehuda Halevi in Zionist Song” (article)

“Knock-Knock! It’s Diversity at the Jewish Studies Door.” AJS Perspectives, Fall/Winter: New Vistas in Jewish Studies (public scholarship)