2. Mediterraneanism in Israeli cultural discourse

Mediterraneanism emerges in the Israeli musical discourse whenever the idea of Israeliness as the cohesive social glue of the Jewish nation-state is contested. From this perspective Mediterraneanism, or rather the mediterraneanization of a musical style can be interpreted as a mechanism for coping with the effects of external challenge to mainstream Israeliness. Music thus offers us a glimpse right into the problematic of the evolving Israeli cultural identity. (1)

Although Mediterraneanism appears in the Israeli public discourse since the late 1950s in connection with the characteristics of the emergent culture of the Israeli state, its presence in Israel was notably intensified in the 1990s when geopolitical and economic developments related to the Middle East Peace Process, such as the Barcelona Process, put Israel into a closer relation with the European Union and the North-African Arab states via an Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement (Modena Terracini 1999). The Mediterranean thus became both a location and a cultural utopia in which the Israeli society and its new culture attempted to position itself within larger geopolitical and cultural frames.

The proliferation of Mediterraneanism in Israeli academic and public discourse since the 1980s is staggering (Shavit 1994:314). Interestingly, many authors from diverse academic fields, such as anthropology and cultural studies participating in the Mediterraneanist debate in Israel frequently bring music as the field in which this concept can be fully grasped. For example, several of the articles included in the special 1994 issue of the Journal of Mediterranean Studies dedicated to Israel refer somehow to music. For example, Shavit states that "music is the only type of artistic creation [in Israel] to which distinctively ‘Mediterranean’ characteristics were attributed" (1994: 316). He rightly suggests that the term "Mediterranean" in Israel was applied to diverse types of music in different historical and social contexts (Shavit 1994:316-7).

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