Theses Doctoral

Music in Conflict: Palestine, Israel and the Politics of Aesthetic Production

Belkind, Nili

This is an ethnographic study of the fraught and complex cultural politics of music making in Palestine-Israel in the context of the post-Oslo era. I examine the politics of sound and the ways in which music making and attached discourses reflect and constitute identities, and also, contextualize political action. Ethical and aesthetic positions that shape contemporary artistic production in Israel-Palestine are informed by profound imbalances of power between the State (Israel), the stateless (Palestinians of the occupied Palestinian territories), the complex positioning of Israel's Palestinian minority, and contingent exposure to ongoing political violence. Cultural production in this period is also profoundly informed by highly polarized sentiments and retreat from the expressive modes of relationality that accompanied the 1990s peace process, strategic shifts in the Palestinian struggle for liberation, which is increasingly taking place on the world stage through diplomatic and cultural work, and the conceptual life and currency Palestine has gained as an entity deserving of statehood around the world.
The ethnography attends to how the conflict is lived and expressed, musically and discursively, in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) of the West Bank, encompassing different sites, institutions and individuals. I examine the ways in which music making and attached discourses reflect and constitute identities, with the understanding that musical culture is a sphere in which power and hegemony are asserted, negotiated and resisted through shifting relations between and within different groups. In all the different contexts presented, the dissertation is thematically and theoretically underpinned by the ways in which music is used to culturally assert or reterritorialize social and spatial boundaries in a situation of conflict.
Beginning with cultural policy promoted by music institutions located in Israel and in the West Bank, the ethnography focuses on two opposing approaches to cultural interventions in the conflict: music as a site of resistance and nation building amongst Palestinian music conservatories located in the oPt, and music is a site of fostering coexistence and shared models of citizenship amongst Jewish and Arab citizens in mixed Palestinian-Jewish environments in Israel. This follows with the ways in which music making is used to re-write the spatial and temporal boundaries imposed on individuals and communities by the repressive regime of the occupation. The ethnography also attends to the ways in which the cultural construction of place and nation is lived and sounded outside of institutional frameworks, in the blurry boundaries and `boderzones' where fixed ethno-national divisions do not align with physical spaces and individual identities. This opens up spaces for alternative imaginings of national and post-national identities, of resistance and coexistence, of the universal and the particular, that musically highlight the daily struggles of individuals and communities negotiating multiplex modalities of difference.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Washburne, Christopher
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014