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Title: The Estranged Self of Spain: Oriental Obsessions in the Time of Gayangos
Authors: Ginger, Andrew
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Editors: Alvarez, Millán Cristin
Heide, Claudia
Citation: Ginger A (2008) The Estranged Self of Spain: Oriental Obsessions in the Time of Gayangos. In: Alvarez Millán Cristina, Heide Claudia (ed.). Pascual de Gayangos: A Nineteenth-Century Spanish Arabist, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 49-67
Keywords: Orientalism
Arab Islam
Nineteenth century
Gayangos Riañ
Espronceda Rivas Hartzenbusch Martínez de la Ros
Ros Lucas Fortuny Alarcón Valera Cliffor
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Abstract: When we consider nineteenth-century considerations of Islamic Iberia within Spain, so much under the sway of liberal nationalism, we may be inclined to fall back on three touchstones of much modern academic analysis: that nationalities were understood in an essentialist manner, that the ‘Oriental’ was rendered exotic in order ultimately to subject it, and that Orientalist description and mapping –literal and metaphorical– was an instrument of colonisation. This article considers a series of reflections among leading Spanish intellectuals on the significance of the Islamic presence in Spain, alongside that of other population groups in historical Spanish territories who might otherwise be considered exotic or Oriental, Gypsies, Incas, Jews. For all that there was an underlying, ultimate sympathy for Castilian-Aragonese victory, and, with possible exceptions like Espronceda, for some form of Christianity, there is little evidence of any direct connection between such preferences and a consistent ‘discourse of Orientalism’. Muslims and Islam are rarely depicted as radically and absolutely ‘other’; many features that Said and Kabbani detect as consistent stereotypes of Orientalist discourse are often absent or heavily qualified or questioned; national and ethnic essentialism plays only a limited and again highly qualified role; and, just as importantly, Muslims are not presented as being any more ‘other’ than numerous aspects of Spanish Christian history. Disconcerting as it may seem in the light of theoretical debates about Orientalism post-Said, there is an almost complete disjunction between, on the one hand, contentment with (Christian) Aragonese-Castilian victory in the peninsula, and, on the other, any overarching commitment to considering Islamic Spain in the uniquely prejudiced terms of the supposed ‘discourse of Orientalism’. It was precisely because the Islamic past was not portrayed as radically and distinctively other that it presented such a powerful opportunity for liberals to re-imagine Spain’s (Christian) historical identity and values. Later in the century, with the Spanish invasion of Morocco in 1859, some fundamental questions were posed about the viability or relevance of existing Spanish Orientalist terms of reference. However, this questioning was not connected to a fundamental rejection or closing off of earlier cultural hybridity, nor to a greater intellectual subjection of Moroccans through an accentuation of their ‘otherness’. Nor, for that matter, was there much by way of renunciation of the fruits of victory in 1492, although calls for religious tolerance were more marked with the rise of the Democrats. Rather, the reason for the change in some quarters was that cultural figures felt compelled to wrestle with the greater immediacy of violent conflict and with the implications of exte
Rights: The publisher has granted permission for use of this item in this repository. The item was first published by Edinburgh University Press
Type: Part of book or chapter of book
Affiliation: SLCR: Spanish

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