To Christians the Iberian Peninsula was Hispania, to Muslims al-Andalus, and to Jews Sefarad. As much as these were all names given to the same real place, the names also constituted ideas, and like all ideas, they have histories of their own. To some, al-Andalus and Sefarad were the subjects of conventional expressions of attachment to and pride in homeland of the universal sort displayed in other Islamic lands and Jewish communities; but other Muslim and Jewish political, literary, and religious actors variously developed the notion that al-Andalus or Sefarad, its inhabitants, and their culture were exceptional and destined to play a central role in the history of their peoples.
In Iberian Moorings Ross Brann traces how al-Andalus and Sefarad were invested with special political, cultural, and historical significance across the Middle Ages. This is the first work to analyze the tropes of Andalusi and Sefardi exceptionalism in comparative perspective. Brann focuses on the social power of these tropes in Andalusi Islamic and Sefardi Jewish cultures from the tenth through the twelfth century and reflects on their enduring influence and its expressions in scholarship, literature, and film down to the present day.
Ross Brann is Milton R. Konvitz Professor of Judeo-Islamic Studies, Cornell University. He is author of The Compunctious Poet: Cultural Ambiguity and Hebrew Poetry in Muslim Spain and Power in the Portrayal: Representations of Muslims and Jews in Islamic Spain.
"Iberian Moorings is a truly illuminating journey through the history of a cultural construct whose ramifications reach well beyond the scope of either Medieval, or Near Eastern Studies. Through his erudite and highly readable text, Professor Ross Brann portrays the medieval Islamic world of the Mediterranean basin as a fascinating landscape of cultural intersections, economic cooperation and competing ideological and political discourses, which reverberate in diverse identity-building narratives to this day."
~Bulletin of Spanish Studies
"The conclusion, a masterful converging of two centuries of scrutinizing al-Andalus and Sepharad, is a compendium that shows the breadth (and potential pitfalls) of ideological possibility in these terms alongside their capacity to embrace evolving methodological approaches amid shifting disciplinary boundaries...Iberian Moorings is much broader than the sum of its interwoven studies, and by innovating even while acknowledging the dangerous allure contained within the ideas of al-Andalus and Sepharad, Brann honors the rigorous and thoughtful approach to the study of these ideas."
"[A]n enticing contribution to the understanding of why the Iberian Peninsula during the period of Islamic rule has become a special, even exceptional, place for different groups of people who have looked at it from different perspectives...[T]his is a book that deserves to be read by those who work on Andalusi matters, as it offers a balanced, thought-provoking, and firmly grounded approach to the roots of the enduring appeal of al-Andalus and Sefarad."
~Revista Hispánica Moderna
"This is an important and thought-provoking book, spanning literary and social history to address a subject that is of significance to scholars who work on any aspect of medieval Iberian culture. It rewards attentive reading, both of the very rich and wide-ranging text and of the highly informative notes. Brann wears his expertise lightly, drawing on an impressively wide array of sources, including secular and liturgical poetry, philosophical tracts, exegetical commentaries, rhetorical and grammatical guides, polemics, letters, biographical dictionaries, and chronicles in Hebrew and Arabic, to provide nuanced and detailed comparisons of these communities and the ways in which they crafted their own literary self-image...[T]his book will surely invigorate further debate pertaining to medieval identity and belonging in the Iberian Peninsula and beyond."
~English Historical Review
"[Brann's] original narrative offers an inspiring model for how to write a history that brings together two religious minorities not just side by side, but by powerfully portraying their connected history through an exploration of shared tropes, literary genres and political strategies. Methodologically, his study of 'cultural politics' will surely inspire more nuanced readings in the canonical literary texts produced by Andalusī writers, to help us understand how vivid images were performed in practice in well-defined moments of change and conflict."
"Iberian Moorings constitutes an original and compelling contribution to several disciplines that have woefully divided scholarship on Islamic al-Andalus from that of Hebrew Sefarad, and both from the bulk of scholarship on Christian Spain and western Europe. The study is the first of which I am aware to offer a full, diachronic and multivalenced investigation of the long-nurtured belief of Andalusi Muslim and Jewish elites in their cultural superiority and uniqueness, and the afterlife of that belief into our own times."
~Susan Einbinder, University of Connecticut