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Pathologies of Moorishness: al-Andalus, narrative, and "worldly humanism"

This essay examines political and literary invocations of the history of alAndalus (Muslim Spain) particularly in the post-9/11 era. Drawing on Edward Said’s concept of “worldly humanism,” I argue that the Arab predicament today can be properly addressed only by cultivating an Arab consciousness that is freed from the perceived glories of the past and that emanates from within the “worldly” reality of Arab societies in the present. The contemporary Arab novel, particularly that which incorporates Andalusian themes and of which Moroccan-American Leila Lalami’s Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits (2005) is an example, claims our critical attention in this respect for two main reasons: first, it parodies the affective, and often detrimental, urge to recover elsewhere ideals (al-Andalus in this case); and, second, it anchors its resistive humanistic endeavour in the worldly exigencies of Arab contemporaneity. It is precisely this labour of imaginative and humanistic resistance, I argue, which well entitles work like Lalami’s to special critical reflection.

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