SUMMARY:This panel’s leading question is the following: how is the memory of al-Andalus (Islamic Iberia) transmitted and contested, in modern contexts ranging from the Arab world to the United States? A diverse array of scholars will respond to this question focusing on various geographical areas and using variegated approaches—including an analysis of everyday symbols and discourses, architecture, the press, and music—but with the ultimate goal of demonstrating how the memory of al-Andalus is fundamentally entwined with Arab (and extra-Arab) politics and identity concerns. The panel’s common aim is to demonstrate that as a prime specimen of Arab and Islamic history and heritage, al-Andalus remains part and parcel of everyday consciousness within and beyond the Arab and Islamic world. Its presence is omnipresent in the architecture, place names, political discourses, and music of the MENA region, forming a semiotic landscape, a prism for imagining politics, a basis for conceptualizing interaction, commonality, and difference between orient and occident, and also an imagined locus for laying claim to distant peoples and geographies. Moreover, al-Andalus also serves as the inspiration for imagined communities outside of the Arab and Islamic worlds, where questions of who is allowed to lay claim to its memory and the meanings of its symbols are subject to negotiation and contestation.
Four papers will respond to the main question and highlight the above themes. Two papers examine semiotic landscapes of the loss of al-Andalus, with a focus on Arab music and Palestinian Arab political discourses, demonstrating their functionality in negotiating trauma and encouraging struggle and resistance in 20th-century Arab politics. Two additional papers will focus on the semiotic landscapes of Andalusī architecture and place names, demonstrating that these served as symbols of spatial and collective identity that were contested within an Arab country like Qatar and even among enthusiasts of Arab and Islamic culture in the United States. Together, the papers of this panel contribute to the study of al-Andalus as a global and transnational heritage icon.