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Melissa J. Scott

I am a PhD student in ethnomusicology specializing in music in the Middle East. My undergraduate honors thesis at the University of Chicago focused on the history of jazz in Turkey. My PhD dissertation, supported by a Fulbright-Hays DDRA, focuses on how forced migration impacts Arabic music education and performance in Jordan, with a critical focus on humanitarianism. I foreground music institutions, individual musicians, and their intersections with humanitarian initiatives and rhetoric. In so doing, I hope to better understand the affects and aesthetics emerging from, sustaining, and shaping humanitarian sentiments and practices.

During the 2017-18 academic year, I was a CASA fellow at the American University in Cairo, where I studied Arabic literature and Egyptian dialect while pursuing an internship at a local music center. I have also studied Arabic in Oman (CLS), Jordan (FLAS), and California.

Music performance is crucial to my studies, and I am an avid oudist. I co-founded and direct Disoriental at UC Berkeley, and regularly perform with the Aswat Ensemble in Oakland. My primary oud teachers are Omar Abbad (Jordan) and Jamal Benbrahim (Morocco), but I have also had lessons with Tareq Jundi (Jordan), Charbel Rouhana (Lebanon), and Muhammad Qadri Dalal (Syria). I have also studied percussion with Loay Dahbour (Palestine).

I am originally from the East Bay and grew up 20 minutes from Berkeley — a rarity among Berkeley graduate students. Learn more about my work at


Levantine and Gulf music, anthropology of humanitarianism, critical refugee studies, secularism and secularity, theories of place and place-making, sound studies, sound and violence, late Ottoman studies