The Many Lives of al-Andalus: A Conversation with Eric Calderwood


The Many Lives of al-Andalus: A Conversation with Eric Calderwood

In this episode, Eric Calderwood, an associate professor of comparative literature at the University of Illinois, joins Jen Rasamimanana, the director of the Tangier Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies, for a discussion of his new book, On Earth or in Poems: The Many Lives of al-Andalus, published by Harvard University Press in May 2023. In the discussion, Calderwood gives an overview of the book’s main ideas and structure and describes the inspiration behind the book’s title. As Calderwood explains, the question that drives his book is: What does al-Andalus do? That is, how has the memory of al-Andalus (Muslim Iberia) shaped cultural and political debates around the world? In this conversation, Calderwood places particular emphasis on the role that al-Andalus has played in debates about ethnicity, race, gender, and nation in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. He asks, for example, why did the Spanish rapper Khaled assert, “Al-Andalus is my race”? Or why did the Palestinian poet Mahmud Darwish call Palestine “the Andalus of the possible”? What, in short, has thinking about al-Andalus made possible for writers, artists, and their audiences in the Mediterranean region and beyond? Pursuing these questions, Calderwood surveys some of the case studies from his book and explains their relevance to scholars and readers in the fields of North African and Mediterranean studies. At the end of the conversation, Calderwood briefly discusses a new research project on the history of multilingual art forms in the Mediterranean region.


Eric Calderwood is an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, the Department of History, the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, the Program in Medieval Studies, the Program in Jewish Culture and Society, the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory, the European Union Center, and the Center for African Studies. His first book, Colonial al-Andalus: Spain and the Making of Modern Moroccan Culture, was published by the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press in 2018. It has been translated into Spanish and Arabic and has won several awards, including the 2019 L. Carl Brown AIMS Book Prize in North African Studies. His second book, On Earth or in Poems: The Many Lives of al-Andalus, was published by Harvard University Press in May 2023. He has also published articles in PMLAJournal of Spanish Cultural Studies, Journal of North African StudiesJournal of Arabic Literature, and International Journal of Middle East Studies. In addition, he has contributed to public-facing venues like Foreign PolicyMcSweeney’sThe American Scholar, NPR, and the BBC.


This episode was recorded on July 14, 2023 at the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies (TALIM).

Download the podcast:  Feed  iTunes  / Podbean / Spotify

Recorded and edited in Tangier, by: Abdelbaar Mounadi Idrissi, Outreach Director, TALIM.

Posted by Hayet Lansari, Librarian, Outreach Coordinator, Content Curator (CEMA).


Important links

The first podcast of Eric Calderwood on Maghrib in Past & Present | Podcasts: Episode 42: Colonial Andalus

Spotify playlist for On Earth or in Poems: The Many Lives of al-Andalus


Article about the book in the Spanish newspaper Cordópolis (in Spanish):


Suggested Readings


ʿAdwani, Ahmad al-. Zaman al-wasl: Al-Andalus fi al-qasida al-ʿarabiyya al-muʿasira. Beirut: al-Intishar al-ʿArabi, 2014.


Anidjar, Gil. “Futures of al-Andalus.” Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 7, no. 3 (2006): 225-239.


Arigita, Elena. “The ‘Cordoba Paradigm’: Memory and Silence around Europe’s Islamic Past.” In Islam and the Politics of Culture in Europe: Memory, Aesthetics, Art, edited by Frank Peter, Sarah Dornhof, and Elena Arigita, 21-40. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2013.


Bennison, Amira K. The Almoravid and Almohad Empires. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016.


Brann, Ross. Iberian Moorings: Al-Andalus, Sepharad, and the Tropes of Exceptionalism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021.


Calderwood, Eric. Colonial al-Andalus: Spain the Making of Modern Moroccan Culture. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2016. Arabic translation: Al-Andalus fi al-liqaʾ al-istiʿmari al-isbani al-maghribi. Translated by Abdelbaar Mounadi Idrissi and Mohammed El Mediouni. Casablanca: al-Markaz al-Thaqafi al-ʿArabi, 2023. 


Calderwood, Eric. On Earth or in Poems: The Many Lives of al-Andalus. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2023.


Calderwood, Eric. “The Reconquista of the Mosque of Córdoba.” Foreign Policy. April 10, 2015.


Calderwood, Eric. “Strait Flow.” PMLA 137, no. 5 (2022): 871-877.


Civantos, Christina. The Afterlife of al-Andalus: Muslim Iberia in Contemporary Arab and Hispanic Narratives. Albany: SUNY Press, 2017.


Darwish, Mahmud. Ahad ʿashar kawkaban. Beirut: Dar al-Jadid, 1992.


Ennaji, Moha, ed. Amazighité et Andalousie: Droit d’Appartenance et HospitalitéFez: Centre Sud Nord, 2015.


García-Arenal, Mercedes, and Gerard Wiegers, eds. Los moriscos: Expulsión y diáspora—Una perspectiva internacionalValencia: Universitat de València, 2013.


García Sanjuán, Alejandro. “Writing the History of al-Andalus: Spain and the West.” In The Routledge Handbook of Muslim Iberia, edited by Maribel Fierro, 620-637. London: Routledge, 2020.


Glasser, Jonathan. The Lost Paradise: Andalusi Music in Urban North Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.


González Alcantud, José Antonio. El mito de al Ándalus: Orígenes y actualidad de un ideal culturalCordoba: Almuzara, 2014.


Granara, William. “Extensio Animae: The Artful Ways of Remembering ‘Al-Andalus.’” Journal of Social Affairs 19, no. 75 (2002): 45-72.


Granara, William. “Nostalgia, Arab Nationalism, and the Andalusian Chronotope in the Evolution of the Modern Arabic Novel.” Journal of Arabic Literature 36, no. 1 (2005): 57-73.


Hall, Stuart. “Cultural Identity and Diaspora.” In Identity: Community, Culture, Difference, edited by Jonathan Rutherford, 222-237. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1990.


Harvey, L.P. Islamic Spain: 1250 to 1500. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.


Harvey, L.P. Muslims in Spain: 1500 to 1614. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.


Jayyusi, Salma Khadra, ed. The Legacy of Muslim Spain. Leiden: Brill, 1992.


Juʿaydi, Muhammad ʿAbd Allah al-. Aʿindakum nabaʾ: Istidʿaʾ al-Andalus fi al-adab al-filastini al-hadith. Beirut: Dar al-Hadi li-l-Tibaʿa wa-l-Nashr, 2002.


Machin-Autenrieth, Matthew. “Spanish Musical Responses to Moroccan Immigration and the Cultural Memory of al-Andalus.” Twentieth-Century Music 16, no. 2 (2019): 259-287.


Manzano Moreno, Eduardo. Conquistadores, emires y califas: Los omeyas y la formación de al-Andalus. Barcelona: Crítica, 2006.


Manzano Moreno, Eduardo. “Qurtuba: Algunas reflexiones críticas sobre el califato de Córdoba y el mito de la convivencia.” Awraq 7 (2013): 225-246.


Marín, Manuela. Mujeres en al-Ándalus. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2000.


Martínez Montávez, Pedro. Al-Andalus, España, en la literatura árabe contemporánea. Málaga: Arguval, 1992.


Paradela, Nieves. El otro laberinto español: Viajeres árabes a España entre el siglo XVII y 1936Madrid: Siglo XXI, 2005.


Reynolds, Dwight F. The Musical Heritage of al-Andalus. London: Routledge, 2021.


Rothberg, Michael. Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009.


Scott, Rachel, AbdoolKarim Vakil, and Julian Weiss, eds. Al-Andalus in Motion: Travelling Concepts and Cross-Cultural Concepts. London: King’s College London CLAMS, 2021.


Shamsie, Muneeza. Introduction to “The Enduring Legacy of al-Andalus.” Special issue, Journal of Postcolonial Writing52, no. 2 (2016): 127-135.


Shannon, Jonathan Holt. Performing al-Andalus: Music and Nostalgia across the Mediterranean. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015.


Snir, Reuven. “‘Al-Andalus Arising from Damascus’: Al-Andalus in Modern Arabic Poetry.” In Charting Memory: Recalling Medieval Spain, edited by Stacy Beckwith, 263-293. New York: Garland, 2000.


Stearns, Justin. “Representing and Remembering al-Andalus: Some Historical Considerations regarding the End of Time and the Making of Nostalgia.” Medieval Encounters 15 (2009): 355-374. 



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