March 1, 2016, 12:00pm
Wall of Sound: Devotional Sound and the Genesis of Conflict in Mandatory Palestine
Presenter: Nimrod Ben Zeev, Ph.D. Student in the Department of History at Penn
Location: Penn History Department Conference, Room 209, College Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19104

The 1929 clashes between Arabs, Jews and British authorities in Palestine are now seen as a defining episode in the Palestinian-Zionist conflict – even its “zero moment”. This talk presents a central factor in the events leading up to the 1929 clashes that has gone largely unnoticed - the struggle over acoustic domination of the space around Jerusalem’s Western Wall. During the late 1920s, devotional sounds such as Muslim calls to prayer (adhān) and the sounds of Jewish worship (the “wailing” that is the wall’s namesake) were deployed as means to mark and disrupt spatial boundaries. The talk will suggest that the capacity to sound or silence these voices should be understood in the context of Palestine/Israel as a diagnostic of power, embodying and informing broader attitudes towards spatial control and political dominance that emerged in the mid-19th century and reverberate to the present day. 

Nimrod Ben Zeev is a Ph.D. student in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on the sensory history of inter-communal relations, labor, colonialism, and nationalism in early 20th century Palestine.