Spanish Colonialism in Africa and the Performance of Identity

Susan Martin-Márquez

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This book explores from a new perspective the fraught processes of Spaniards' efforts to formulate a national identity, from the Enlightenment to the present day. Focusing on the nation’s Islamic-African legacy, Susan Martin-Márquez disputes received wisdom that Spain has consistently rejected its historical relationship to Muslims and Africans. Instead, she argues, Spaniards have sometimes denied and sometimes embraced this legacy, and that vacillation has served to destabilize presumably fixed borders between Europe and the Muslim world and between Europe and Africa.


Martin-Márquez analyzes a wealth of texts produced by Spaniards as well as by Africans and Afro-Spaniards from the early nineteenth century forward. She illuminates the complexities and disorientations of Spanish identity and shows how its evolution has important implications for current debates not only in Spanish culture but also in other countries involved in negotiating a modern identity.

Susan Martin-Márquez is associate professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and director, Cinema Studies Program, Rutgers University.

"In this impressive and ambitious project, Susan Martin-Márquez highlights the historical, political, and cultural context in which Spanish identity has engaged with the debate about the precise nature of its ‘African legacy.’"—H. Rosi Song, Bryn Mawr College

“An original and wide ranging cultural analysis of the impact that Spain's complex relation with Africa has had on definitions of Spanish national identity.”—L. Elena Delgado, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

"This is cultural studies at its best: subtly theorized, impressively historicized, and above all superbly researched and beautifully written. Particularly insightful is the stress on gender and the use of performance theory. A superb exploration of colonial ambivalence, which should be required reading for all scholars and students of Spanish culture."—Jo Labanyi, New York University

“Dialoguing with a vast array of sources, this brilliant and thoroughly original study opens up new ways to think about the construction of Spanish national identity.”—Lou Charnon-Deutsch, Stony Brook University

“Susan Martin-Márquez’s Disorientations is an exceptionally original investigation of Spain's fraught cultural relations with Africa. Ranging over a wide variety of fascinating sources, many of them little known, Martin-Márquez is as meticulous in her close analyses as she is sensitive and judicious in her conclusions.”—Paul Julian Smith, author of Spanish Visual Culture: Cinema, Television, Internet

“Throughout much of the modern period, the competing claims that ‘Africa begins at the Pyrenees’ and ‘Europe ends at the Atlas’ gave a measure of the paradoxical, even ‘disorienting,’ status of Spain as at once orientalized and orientalizing. Drawing on a rich array of literary, visual, and historical materials from the early nineteenth century to the present, Susan Martin-Márquez offers in Disorientations a dazzlingly groundbreaking account of Spanish national identity in relation to colonialist and post-colonialist endeavors in Morocco, Western Sahara, and Equatorial Guinea.”— Brad Epps, Harvard University

"[a] beautifully-written and important work… The author has a tremendous amount of rich subject matter at her disposal… [a] fascinating and insightful book… One can only hope that it will reach a wide readership, inspiring much thought and debate for years to come."—Geoffrey Jensen, Bulletin of Spanish Studies

"One of the great strengths of Disorientations is that it shows in meticulous detail the attraction and familiarity of Morocco to Spanish advocates of expansion. . . . Disorientations is a rich and important contribution to our knowledge of Spain's late colonial history and its legacies."—Christopher Schmidt-Nowara, Journal of World History
ISBN: 9780300125207
Publication Date: July 29, 2008
456 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
41 b/w illus.