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Sound, Narrative and the Spaces in between: Disruptive Listening in Jerusalem’s Old City

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This article explores the intertwined roles of sound performance, listening and narration as agentive modes of parsing conflicted spaces in Jerusalem’s Old City. Via a series of ethnographic case studies, I illustrate some of the everyday ways in which overlapping geographies are constructed and communicated in public and semi-public ‘civil’ spaces at the contested seams of Israel and Palestine. In performing music in the city, citing poetry or pronouncing judgments on the soundscape, inhabitants and visitors draw upon both sensory experiences and a broad corpus of literary, artistic, historical and narrative commentary on the city. Drawing on the work of Michael Jackson and Davide Panagia, I suggest that unnarratable sensory experiences such as these might expose moments when political subjectivity is reconfigured, challenging unitary narratives by highlighting the inherent complexity and ambiguity of everyday experience.

Affiliations: 1: SOAS, University of London, UK and the University of Haifa, Israel Email:


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