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Listening to Jewish Music in the Americas: Re-conceptualizing Jewish American Music Research in the 21st Century

Mon, December 17, 5:00 to 6:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Harborview 1 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


This panel addresses critical conceptual issues in Jewish music research in the Americas through a discussion of case studies prioritizing the consideration of listening practices in the sonic expression of Jewish ethnic and religious difference and sameness. Within this relational framework—between producing and hearing Jewishness in music, we situate the political boundaries of “Americanness” in Jewish musics as spatial domains tied to temporal conditions of place and political subjectivity. Furthermore, we interrogate the idea of “America” in the Jewish musical imaginary while contextualizing the biographies of musicians and singers, performances and performance strategies, social values, and economic conditions that make (and have made) audible Jewish concerns in American music cultures. Following historians of Jewish Latin America, Raanan Rein and Jeffrey Lesser, we position Jewish American music research in relation to other areas of cultural studies and approach Jewish Americans as ethnic, racial, and religious collectivities in the Americas. That is, while hearing how Jewish Americans have performed and constructed senses of belonging and exclusion pertaining to citizenship within music and sound worlds, we address Jewish American musical expression in relation to “wider minority group experiences as well.” This departure from hearing Jewish musical expressions as “American Jewish” music allows us to move away from some of the problems of Jewish particularism and American exceptionalism as well as to address other key issues pertaining to Jewish subjectivity in the Americas in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. As such, the papers on this panel will ask questions regarding race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality in the representation and construction of Jewish American subjectivities with respect to music and sound studies in the Americas.

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