Borderland Pop: Arab Jewish Musicians and the Politics of Performance

Essay Excerpt

This perspective reflects my position as a researcher of Arab Libyan Jewish origin born in Israel. For me, this topic is not merely academic but a means of examining my relationship with the dominant Israeli identity, the Arab Jewish community, and my Libyan cultural roots. This study, therefore, simultaneously marks a path back to my homeland in the Arab Jewish slums scattered across Israel and an escape route for me as an anthropologist to reflect critically on the silencing of certain Arab Jewish identities. In this article, I present an Arab Jewish borderland in the field of popular music that has emerged in the space between Israeli Jewish culture and the diverse Arab and Muslim cultures that lie in close proximity.3 As there is not space to present the full range of musical practices along this borderland, my focus will be on how the borderland can be a site of empowerment for some Arab Jews, mostly Yemenites, while simultaneously being an area that encompasses multiple ethnic conflicts. This multiplicity has led to the paradoxical nature of the borderland, in which the frequent crossing of musical borders not only fails to breach national boundaries but also serves to sustain them.  (Saada-Ophir, 206) 

About the Author

Saada-Ophir was a Professor of Anthropology. Her research interests were Isreal, borderlands, Middle East, Arab Jews, and pop culture. 

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