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Michael FigueroaAssociate Professor (Ethnomusicology)

Michael A. Figueroa (Associate Professor; he/him/his) specializes in music and politics in the SWANA region (South West Asia and North Africa) and its diasporas. The first phase of his career has focused on music in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, culminating in his first book, City of Song: Music and the Making of Modern Jerusalem (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2021). In the book, he develops a genealogical approach to the study of musical discourse, arguing that popular song has been an essential discursive site for the production of spatial knowledge about Jerusalem, the main contested territory within the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Though a sustained focus on Zionist and Israeli cultural production during the long 20th century, he demonstrates how the question of Jerusalem’s meaning and status proved to be not a static ethical question but rather one that served as a subject for debating social values, a way of working out ideas about nation and community, of mediating understandings of self and others through religion and religiosity, and of doing something creative with the rich repository of tropes, signs, and symbols that comprise Jewish thought and culture. In political terms, the study demonstrates how the present conflict over Jerusalem is not a timeless problem but rather one that was produced in modernity, as musicians and associated figures grappled with the question of the city’s meanings.

Prof. Figueroa has recently embarked on a second major project, “Music and Racial Awakening in Arab America,” a study of post-9/11 Arab American race consciousness through an expansive study of musical life across genres and geographical boundaries. The research for this project is currently underway, and he welcomes inquiries into this subject from any interested musicians, scholarly collaborators, and prospective students.

Prof. Figueroa is co-editor, with Prof. Annegret Fauser, of Performing Commemoration: Musical Reenactment and the Politics of Trauma (University of Michigan Press, “Music and Social Justice” series, 2020). He maintains other interests and publication plans related to the study of music and poetry, performance studies, music technology, 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, a Fulbright-IIE fellowship, and a Faculty Fellowship from the Institute for Arts and Humanities.

He currently serves as Coordinator of the Faculty of Color and Indigenous Faculty Group of the UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities and is affiliated with the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies, Center for Urban and Regional Studies, and Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

  • Office: Hill Hall 209
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Spring 2021

MUSC 146 Introduction to World Musics (Tu/Th, 11:00–11:50)

MUSC 234 World Musics in Theory and Practice (Tu/Th, 2:00–3:15)

Other recent courses

JWST 697 Themes and Methodologies in Jewish Studies

MUSC 286 Music as Culture (recent topics: Frank Ocean; Music, Sound, and Religion; Music in the Worlds of Islam; Musics of the Middle East)

MUSC 291 Music and Politics

MUSC 355 History and Culture of Music (topic: Humans and Machines in Musical Modernity)

MUSC 970 Graduate Seminar in Ethnomusicology (recent topics: Ethnomusicology and Oral Performance; Music and Historiography in Israel/Palestine; Music and Poetry; Music and Race in Arab America; Urban Ethnomusicology)

(forthcoming) City of Song: Music and the Making of Modern Jerusalem (New York: Oxford University Press)

(forthcoming) “Ensounding Exile: Yehuda Halevi and Israeli Musical Mediterraneanism.” In Music and Encounter at the Mediterranean Crossroads: A Sea of Voices, edited by Ruth F. Davis and Brian S. Oberlander. London: Routledge.

(2020) Performing Commemoration: Musical Reenactment and the Politics of Trauma, edited by Annegret Fauser and Michael A. Figueroa (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press).

(2020) “Musical Memory, Animated Amnesia: The Soundscape of Exoneration in Waltz with Bashir.” In Performing Commemoration: Musical Reenactment and the Politics of Trauma, edited by Annegret Fauser and Michael A. Figueroa (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press).

(2020) “Decolonizing ‘Intro to World Music’?” Journal of Music History Pedagogy 10(1): 39–57.

(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.

(2018) “Knock-Knock! It’s Diversity at the Jewish Studies Door.” AJS Perspectives, Fall/Winter: New Vistas in Jewish Studies, 49–51.

(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.