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163 Afterword Breaking the Spell of Identity Thinking involves not only the flow of thoughts, but their arrest as well. —­ Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History” Oscar Wilde wrote that the “one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.”1 This process of rewriting can take place in two main ways. The first challenges previous views, not conceptual frameworks—­ or, as Hayden White put it, the “metahistorical element”: “the precritically accepted paradigm of what a distinctively ‘historical’ explanation should be.”2 You can write and rewrite social, feminist, black, and national histories without questioning concepts of class, gender, race, and nationality. For the most part I have explored and explained this type of rewriting: the nineteenth-​ century concept of oriental Andalusia which has been refashioned and refuted, but never fully critiqued. As Edward Said wrote about the orient, this Andalusia is “less a place than a topos, a set of references, a congeries of characteristics, that seems to have its origin in a quotation, or a fragment of a text, or a citation from someone’s work on the Orient, or some bit of previous imagining, or an amalgam of all these.”3 Romantic travelers in search of the sublime in the nineteenth century; the pro-​ Castilian ILE reformers and andalucista patriots of the early twentieth century; the nationalist flamenquistas and right-​ wing pundits of the Franco era; and the regionalists of the post-​ dictatorial period accepted the imagined Andalusia as a real entity, whether they revered or reviled it. Their diverse interpretations—­ their rewritings—­ differ about fundamental aspects of Andalusia, but none questions the familiar identification of the region with an abstraction, the foundation of identity politics. The second way history can be rewritten is by challenging not what was said, but how it was said. Federico García Lorca exemplifies this approach in reworking worn clichés to blast his way into literary modernity. His Andalusia is as unprovincial as it is uncompromising; it submits to old myths while reinventing them, cutting stock images of an orientalized land populated by gypsies and Moors against the grain in order to break out of paralyzing binaries like east vs. west; archaic vs. modern; and oriental vs. Spanish. The 164 Afterword result is a fluid poetic artifact: a flowing Andalusia of the mind that defies definition. García Lorca’s Andalusia—­ which was a literary landscape, not an economically underdeveloped territory—­ will not satisfy the pragmatic mind. Writing in the tumultuous 1960s, the Marxist thinker Alfonso Carlos Comín said that if Andalusians ever wished to break the shackles of oppression, they must first break the spell of cultural identity. Perceiving and solving real socioeconomic problems implies the rejection of fictions and theories that have never worked to benefit the people who evoked them. Andalusians must pull the wool of spiritual commonality off their eyes and regard each other as fellow exploited workers. Contributors to the leftist magazine Triunfo noted in the 1970s that Comín’s radical materialism throws out the baby of Andalusia with the bath water of myths about the region. The real question, they suggested, was how to break the spell of cultural fictions without discarding the idea of Andalusia. For the critics Francisco Almazán and Antonio Ramos Espejo, the way out of the dilemma was to foster a tactical rather than an essentialist approach to history and culture. In their view, flamenco and the historical memory of al-​ Andalus are valuable as cultural markers only if we see them as the expression of marginalization: as the “sigh of the oppressed,” to use Marx’s words on religion.4 This approach demystifies Andalusia. If the region has a common culture—­ a common identity—­ it can only be understood as an effect or by-​ product of marginality and its causes—­ land appropriation and accumulation, servitude, ethnic displacement. While the first type of rewriting keeps Andalusia as a fixed image within margins, the second type, in both its idealistic and materialistic versions, blasts them open. However, neither approach shrugs off identity as a mode of expression. García Lorca decenters and multiplies it on the written page; Triunfo reduces it to ever-​ changing material conditions. Either way,“Andalusia ” is understood as entity and identity. Even the disenchanted voices who now lament the failed cultural politics of the Andalusian government intone the unavoidable buzzword of “identity .” In a 2001 article, Isidoro Moreno, a professor of anthropology at the University of Seville and one of the...


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