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Ruth Davis is University Reader in Ethnomusicology and a Fellow of Corpus Christi College where she is also Director of Studies in Music. She publishes, teaches and broadcasts on music of North Africa, the Middle East and the wider Mediterranean with principal research areas in mainland Tunisia, the island of Jerba, Israel and Mandatory Palestine. She has also carried out fieldwork in Peru, Iraq, Uzbekistan and the UK. She studied piano performance at the Royal Academy of Music and took a BMus degree at King’s College London, before embarking on graduate studies in ethnomusicology at the University of Amsterdam and in Music and Middle Eastern Studies at Princeton University where she received her PhD in 1986.
Her research on the Arab-Andalusian music of Tunisia (ma’lūf) focuses on nationalism and cultural policy, canonisation, orality and literacy and the interface between art, popular and sacred practice, among other topics. Related projects include Middle Eastern and Central Asian modal theory and practice and Jewish sacred and popular song. Her recent studies on the historic role of Jewish musicians in Tunisian popular song and the annual pilgrimage of Israeli Jews to Jerba focus on concepts of diaspora and homeland and music in cultural memory. Her work on Robert Lachmann’s Oriental Music Archive in Mandatory Palestine explores relationships between ethnomusicology, broadcasting and nationalist ideology, and the historiography of oral musical traditions of the eastern Mediterranean. In 2010 she was a Rockefeller Foundation scholar in residence at the Bellagio Center, Italy, and she is spending the 2010-11 academic year as a Fellow of the Institute of Sacred Music, Yale University, where she is working on the project ‘Music at the Mediterranean Crossroads of the Abrahamic Faiths’.
Thesis topics (co-)supervised since 2000 include:
Paraliturgical songs of Babylonian Jewry and Arabo-Islamic culture and religion;
Music of the Irish diaspora in post-war Birmingham;
Soviet and post-Soviet models of musical nationalism in West and Central Asia;
Western Syrian Orthodox chant;
Traditional musical practices of the rebec in Cantabria;
Technology, Human creativity and temporality in Icelandic and Swedish popular music culture;
Yiddish song from 1945 to the present day;
Music and meaning: the duduk of Armenia and the mey of Turkey;
Micro-music of the Ottoman Empire: the case of the Phanariot Greeks of Istanbul.
Tourism, nationalism and museumism in contemporary Cuba;
Mugam and national identity in post-independence Azerbaijan;
Concerts for tourists in Venice as musical multimedia;
Music in the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom;
The beautiful grasslands: folk song, imagination and identity in urban inner Mongolia;
Contemporary composition and performance in the fiddle tradition of the Shetland Isles;
Syrian Orthodox chant in Sadad: A narrative of continuity and change;
Identity, history and representation: Political songs of Tibetan refugees in Nepal;
The makamlar and the Turkman dutar.