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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 and its diasporas (South West Asia and North Africa, aka the “Middle East”). The early phase of his career 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, 2022). 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. 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 modern political developments in the city and the considerable weight of its history.

Prof. Figueroa’s current research, “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. He is also collaborating with Philip V. Bohlman (University of Chicago) and Ruth HaCohen (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) on an edited volume devoted to Austrian-born composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold. He maintains other interests and publication plans related to the study of music in Muslim Iberia, especially during the early Abbasid period (ca. 750–861 CE). Prof. Figueroa welcomes inquiries into any of these subjects from interested musicians, scholarly collaborators, and prospective students.

He has published in several journals, including Ethnomusicology, Ethnomusicology Forum, Journal of Music History Pedagogy, Journal of Musicology, and multiple edited volumes, including one for which he served as an editor: Performing Commemoration: Musical Reenactment and the Politics of Trauma (University of Michigan Press, “Music and Social Justice” series, 2020, with Annegret Fauser). Figueroa serves on both Council and the Committee on the History of the Society for the American Musicological Society. He is also the current Chair of the Alan Merriam Prize Committee of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

Prior to arriving at UNC, Figueroa earned a BA in Musicology from Northwestern University (2006) and a PhD in Ethnomusicology from the University of Chicago (2014). 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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Prof. Figueroa will be on sabbatical in Spring 2023

Selected recent courses

JWST 697 Themes and Methodologies in Jewish Studies

MUSC 146 Introduction to World Musics

MUSC 234 World Musics in Theory and Practice

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

Graduate Seminars: Ethnomusicology and Oral Performance; Improvisation and Social Theory; Music and Historiography in Israel/Palestine; Music and Poetry; Music and Race in Arab America; Urban Ethnomusicology

(2022) “Post-Tarab: Music and Affective Politics in the US SWANA Diaspora.” Ethnomusicology 66(2): 236–63.

(2022) Encounters in Ethnomusicology: Essays in Honor of Philip V. Bohlman, co-edited with Jaime Jones and Timothy Rommen (Münster, Germany: LIT-Verlag).

(2022) City of Song: Music and the Making of Modern Jerusalem (New York: Oxford University Press).

(2022) “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).

(2021) “‘Behind the Sounds’: Matti Caspi, Shlomo Gronich, and the Politics of Genre in Israel.” Journal of Musicology 38(4): 401–18.
*Winner of the American Musicological Society Jewish Studies and Music Study Group Publication Award 2022.

(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.