- Moors Dressed as Moors: Clothing, Social Distinction, and Ethnicity in Early Modern Iberia by Javier Irigoyen-García
Javier Irigoyen-García's Moors Dressed as Moors: Clothing, Social Distinction, and Ethnicity in Early Modern Iberia meticulously analyses and uncovers the use of Moorish clothing in early modern Iberia between 1492 and the first half of the seventeenth century. Ambitious and interdisciplinary in its approach and scope, Irigoyen-García carefully examines the topic at hand by not only analysing the economic and sociocultural dimensions of material culture and sartorial production of Moors dressing as Moors but also considering how and why aristocratic and noble Christians dressed as Moors. In doing so, his splendid work corrects the Iberian scholarship and bibliography that have misinterpreted "the idea that impersonations of the Moors in the game of canes parallel the festivals of moros y cristianos, which celebrate the Christian conquest with staged mock combats between Muslims and Christians that invariably end with the victory of the latter." In my view, Moors Dressed as Moors is a great academic book because it contains an introduction that guides its audience architecturally through the monograph's central concepts and keywords (for example, the section titled "A Note on Terminology: Moorish or Morisco Clothing?") as well as the book's central argument(s) and methodological framework and burning questions.
Irigoyen-García divides the book into two parts. Part One (chapters one to four) focuses on the game of canes. In this section, the author analyses the production and circulation of Moorish clothing on old Christians, thereby illustrating how this prominent urban spectacle served as a marker of nobility. Chapter one serves as an overview of the royally sanctioned game of canes, treated as military exercises and social practices instead of "extraordinary, carnivalesque performances," thus having become the norm of analysis for Moorish artefacts in recent years. Chapter two chronicles the trickle-down effects of these equestrian performances at the municipal level, funnelled through real motivations and not simply nostalgic or folkloric imaginings of otherness. Chapter three, in its literary and parodic exploration of "the social demand for models of Moorishness," understands literary manifestations of Moorishness to be symbolic resolutions for class struggle. Focusing on Lope [End Page 173] de Vega's life and oeuvre as a case study, Chapter four argues that Lope's plays were not standalone cases of authorial self-fashioning but, rather, plots and characters selected in corroboration with the circulation and availability of liveries. The author's brilliance especially shines through in this chapter as he proves that these liveries had real value, concretizing the social and economic landscape of seventeenth-century Iberia.
Part Two (chapters five to eight) focuses on how sartorial legislation against the Moriscos served to hinder their full integration in Iberian society. In its analysis of the ideological motivations and assumptions underlying the ever-changing perception and policing of the Morisco's sartorial practices, Chapter five contends that the main goal of legislation prohibiting so-called Morisco culture concentrated on the further marginalization of elite male Moriscos. Rich in archival and non-literary sources, Chapters six and seven invite us to conceive of clothing as capital through which Christian passing as Moor meant passing as noble, and Morisco passing as Moor sanctioned the possibility of "honorable recognition" through displays of military excellence. The author's treatment of the zambra as folkloric performance in Chapter 7 is especially compelling and rich. Chapter eight attends to the evolution of how Moriscos become constructed as theatrical bodies. Irigoyen-García argues that propagandistic theatrical production circulating after the expulsion furthered contrived views of Moriscos as exoticized bodies that have impacted the visual imaginary of Iberian cultural productions beyond early modernity.
Impeccably researched, meticulously analysed, and impressively documented, Moors Dressed as Moors is a must-read book and should be required reading for specialists and non-specialists alike.
Nicholas R. Jones
Department of Spanish, Bucknell University