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Problematizing the term “Moor”

“Because of its potent connotations, ‘Moor’ [Maurus/Moro] arguably served as the principal linguistic vehicle for suppressing the indigenous nature of the Andalusi Muslim cultural heritage in Iberia and rendering Andalusi Muslims as others in a projected Christian Iberia. It enabled Christians in thirteenth century Castile to dismiss as “foreign” the substantially mixed Andalusi Muslim population to their south, as well as Castile’s own [Muslim populations], and to disregard the extent of social and cultural ties among all Andalusis, including Muslims from Africa. Christian longing for a world of religious, cultural, ethnic and political unity—rather than diversity—effectively interfered with and rewrote the cultural history of the Peninsula in accordance with the polity that they not only imagined for themselves but then constructed for their new religious and linguistic community.”—Ross Brann, Professor of Judeo-Islamic Studies at Cornell University, in his article “The Moors?” in Medieval Encounters 15 (2009), p. 313

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