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.