Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Farah, Randa


References to the history of al-Andalus, the medieval Muslim territory of the Iberian Peninsula, in what is today the region of Andalusia (Spain) still have a palpable presence and relevance. This dissertation examines diverse accounts of the Arab-Islamic past, and the ways and contexts in which they are invoked. Based on a year and a half of fieldwork in Granada, Spain, I conducted interviews with ordinary Andalusians, academics and researchers (primarily historians), tour guides, historical novelists, high school history teachers, Spanish-born Muslim converts to Islam, Moroccans, and others involved in the contemporary production of this history. Moreover, I conducted participant observation at national and regional commemorations, celebrations and historical sites, areas where this ‘Moorish’ history, as it is commonly known, is a central feature. I argue that: (1) historical accounts of al-Andalus cannot be reduced to the two polarized versions (or “sides”) dominant in political discourse and in much academic debate – one that views the Reconquista as liberation and another that views it as a tragedy – rather, there is a broad and often neglected spectrum between these opposing versions; (2) Andalusia draws on the Arab-Islamic past to promote its tourist industry, and its economic, political and cultural relations with the Arab world. It is safe to suggest that Andalusia is pulled between a history that bridges Europe and the Arab world, and a contemporary European border that reminds us of contemporary geopolitical divisions and separations; (3) Andalusian history and historical sites are commodified to maintain revenue from the tourist industry. Yet, in the process, inhabitants of the Albayzin, the Moorish quarter, adopt similar tourist practices to learn about their own history and appropriate global heritage tourism discourse to contest governmental decisions that benefit tourists to the detriment of residents; (4) commemorations and celebrations in the city weave together a dominant narrative that reinforces the national narrative and its myth of origin; concurrently, these annual rituals provide spaces for alternative versions to circulate, including those that are opposed to the official versions. Importantly, the Día de la Toma (Day of the Capture) commemoration symbolizing national unity is the most publicly contested.