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  • To Live Like a Moor: Christian Perceptions of Muslim Identity in Medieval and Early Modern Spain by Olivia Remie Constable
  • Payton Phillips-García Quintanilla
To Live Like a Moor: Christian Perceptions of Muslim Identity in Medieval and Early Modern Spain By Olivia Remie Constable. Edited by Robin Vose. Foreword by David Nirenberg. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018.

Reading and reviewing Olivia Remie Constable's final publication, To Live Like A Moor: Christian Perceptions of Muslim Identity in Medieval and Early Modern Spain, is a humbling experience in which somber reflection on a life lost too soon is juxtaposed with an awe-filled celebration of the scholarship Constable imparted throughout her career and, in the case of this book, immediately before her passing. Constable worked with her former student, Robin Vose, to prepare the manuscript, and entrusted its editing and posthumous publication to him as well. Vose made minimal interventions and additions, all of which were based on the author's own copious notes. The result is a cohesive treatment of the ways in which quotidian practices around dress, hygiene, and food variously informed and were informed by shifting economic, social, and religious concerns in the Christian-ruled kingdoms of Iberia between the early thirteenth century (though some discussion is set even earlier, and significant attention is paid to Al-Andalus in general, and pre-conquest Granada more specifically) and the early seventeenth century (when the Moriscos were expelled from Spain). While this book, as its title communicates, is essentially about the ways in which Iberian Catholics perceived the cultural and religious identities of Muslims and Moriscos living alongside them or under their rule, it is also about the ways in which Christian leaders long nurtured, maintained, constructed, or imposed identities of difference through matters of the everyday material world—until the forced conversions of the early sixteenth century, after which reactions to difference took on a completely new tenor, and the stuff of daily life became a matter of life and death. Constable manages clearly and succinctly to bridge these two periods by reconstructing the concrete realities of each.

Chapter 1, titled "Being Muslim in Christian Spain," opens with a discussion of a document that is well-known to scholars and students of [End Page 265] early modern Spain: the 1567 memorandum written by the prominent Granadan Morisco, Francisco Núñez Muley, in response to Philip II's comprehensive prohibition of Morisco customs and cultural practices. Constable employs this familiar text both to frame the book as a whole and to lay the groundwork for the argument that will run throughout her remaining chapters: that "this new push to eliminate Muslim 'rites and customs' was merely the mirror image—reversed yet fundamentally the same—of earlier laws concerning Muslim life and practice" (10). In Chapter 2, "Clothing and Appearance," Constable carefully traces how the medieval expectation of visual distinction and preservation of difference between Christians, Jews, and Muslims transformed into an untenable expectation for visual sameness between Old and New Christians in the sixteenth century. Chapter 3, "Bathing and Hygiene," examines how the ubiquitous, lucrative, and highly regulated existence of urban bathhouses in the Christian and Islamic kingdoms of medieval Iberia—which were regularly frequented by Muslims, Christians, and Jews—came to be overwhelmingly associated not just with residual Islam, but also with filth, crime, and sin in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Christian Spain. Finally, Chapter 4, titled "Food and Foodways" (the only subject not explicitly addressed in Philip II's prohibitions or Núñez Muley's memorandum, but which frequently appeared in rationale for the ultimate expulsion of the Moriscos) unpacks, among other topics, the economic concerns underpinning the butchering and sale of meats (halal or otherwise) across the centuries, and the complications involved in condemning culinary traditions and mealtime habits that had long been shared across religious lines. A recurring theme, then, is how shifting perceptions of and reactions to the cultural practices of Muslims and Moriscos shaped and transformed Old Christian lifeways and identities as well.

As Vose states in his Preface, Constable's "ability to glean evidence from a dizzying array of archival documents, manuscript and printed volumes, architectural remains, and material...


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