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Religions 2014, 5(1), 126-156; doi:10.3390/rel5010126

Rhetorical Conflicts: Civilizational Discourse and the Contested Patrimonies of Spain’s Festivals of Moors and Christians

Department of Religious Studies, Manhattan College, Riverdale, NY 10805, NY, USA
Received: 8 January 2014 / Revised: 9 February 2014 / Accepted: 10 February 2014 / Published: 20 February 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Islam, Immigration, and Identity)
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Abstract

The title of this essay identifies a series of verbal scuffles—or “rhetorical conflicts”—that developed in the fall of 2006 within Spain’s larger culture wars. The political skirmishes coalesced around an announcement by the Popular Party (PP) to champion a class of regional festivals for U.N. designation as indispensible elements of “human patrimony.” The war of words stemmed from the PP’s politicization of cultural designations, but the celebrations in question—the fiestas of Moors and Christians common in the south of Valencia region—already generated controversy since they display “rhetorical conflicts” of a different sort: In potentially offensive fashion, the festivals present carnivalesque re-enactments of battles in the medieval “Reconquest” of Iberia by Christian armies over Islamic “Moors.” The essay situates these entangled controversies in the broader context of waves of immigration that have accompanied, or even fueled, a trans-Atlantic discourse centered on notions of a geopolitical “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West. Accordingly, the debates about the Moors and Christians festivals—like the celebrations themselves—reveal deep ambivalence about the role of Islam and of Muslims in Spain’s past and present.
Keywords: Festivals of Moors and Christians; Heritage of Humanity; UNESCO; Spain; Muslims; ‘culture wars’; ‘clash of civilizations’ Festivals of Moors and Christians; Heritage of Humanity; UNESCO; Spain; Muslims; ‘culture wars’; ‘clash of civilizations’
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Shefferman, D.A. Rhetorical Conflicts: Civilizational Discourse and the Contested Patrimonies of Spain’s Festivals of Moors and Christians. Religions 2014, 5, 126-156.

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