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Nisa al-Andalus: Historical reflections on women in Al-Andalus

From June 11, 2018 until November 15, 2018All of the conferences will be held at 7:30 p.m., with the exception of the opening event, which will be held at 8:00 p.m.
CóRDOBA
Casa Árabe Auditorium (at Calle Samuel de los Santos Gener, 9). All of the conferences will be held at 7:30 p.m., with the exception of the opening event, which will be held at 8:00 p.m. Free entry until the event’s capacity is reached.
In Spanish.

Casa Árabe has organized this series of twelve conferences, taking place from March through November at its headquarters in Cordoba. Opening on March 8, 2018.

Various theoretical frameworks have attempted to explain the reasons behind the social inequality of women throughout history. Many have focused solely and exclusively on studying asymmetrical power balances and the role played by culture and the historically  institutionalized patriarchy. However, history always shows us that there are exceptions.

These distortions are what we have attempted to outline in this series of conferences.

The contexts are what they are, but the incredible internal diversity existing in the contemporary Arab world, like that which existed back in the medieval era or in Al-Andalus, means that “the exception proves the rule.” Differences in terms of age, personal status (married, unmarried, enslaved or free), ethnic origin, family and socio-economic position, as well as the historical and religious contexts themselves, show us a great deal of internal diversity that can be hard to define.

Distant from clichés and historical prejudices, the women of Al-Andalus obviously formed a significant part of life in Al-Andalus and the Middle Ages, even reaching positions and holding roles in Law, religion, patronage of the arts, society, etc., that filled both public and private spaces, making women more visible.

From an educational and historiographical perspective, reflecting on the existing document sources, we will be delving into the field of contemporary women’s studies, analyzing the Arab sources and literary genres, along with today’s more current bibliography, with the goal of putting the role which women held in the era of Al-Andalus into context.
Nisa al-Andalus: Historical reflections on women in Al-Andalus
  • What is gender?: Historical and methodological approach

    What is gender?: Historical and methodological approach

    April 19, 20187:30 p.m.
    Casa Árabe Auditorium (at Calle Samuel de los Santos Gener, 9) 7:30 p.m. Free entry until the event’s capacity is reached.
    In Spanish.
    Second conference in the cycle “Nisá al-Ándalus: Historical reflections on women in Al-Andalus,” given by Professor María Elena Díez Jorge.
    Traditionally, the active participation of women throughout history has been made invisible in historical studies. These historiographical absences first and foremost require that women be made visible. Gender should not be identified exclusively with women and must encompass all different identities and their performativity, not viewing them only from the heterosexual vantage point from which many often position themselves. However, given the imbalances in historical study, it is essential to recover the Women’s History while also bearing in mind that it is not the same to discuss gender as it is to place the focus of attention mainly on women. In recent years, many have frequently confused the terms “women” and “gender,” which is why this conference will bring up several conceptual and methodological reflections. Thus, in certain specific cases it will discuss studies of Al-Andalus and the Mudéjar period.

    María Elena Díez Jorge is an associate professor at the University of Granada’s Art History Department with national accreditation for the teaching corps of university department heads since February of 2015. Her dedication to two main lines of research stands out: firstly, her research towards Peace. Within this framework, she carries out related activities, above all involving multiculturalism and peaceful co-existence in art, specifically during the Mudéjar period, while also striving to unite studies on Al-Andalus with those on the Christian kingdoms. At the same time, she performs research related with Women’s History, with a special focus on “women’s spaces.” As a result of her research, along with her participation on several committees and advisory boards related with these lines of work, she has had many books and articles published, the most notable of which include El arte mudéjar. Expresión estética de una convivencia (Mudéjar Art: An aesthetic expression of co-existence); Mujeres y arquitectura: cristianas y mudéjares en la construcción (Women and Architecture: Christian and Mudéjar women in construction); El Palacio islámico de la Alhambra. Propuestas para una lectura multicultural (The Islamic Palace of the Alhambra: Proposals for a multicultural interpretation), as well as co-directing the work Género y Paz (Gender and Peace), and many others. She has also taught the graduate course “City, Architecture, Gender,” the course “Gender and Peace” and has organized and directed several seminars, congresses and meetings on the topic. She recently completed a project for excellence in architecture from a gender-based perspective.
  • Biographic study of women in Al-Andalus

    Biographic study of women in Al-Andalus

    April 24, 2018 7:30 p.m.
    CóRDOBA
    Casa Árabe Auditorium (at Calle Samuel de los Santos Gener, 9). 7:30 p.m. Free entry until the event’s capacity is reached.
    In Spanish.
    Third conference in the cycle “Nisá al-Ándalus: Historical reflections on women in Al-Andalus,” given by Professor María Luisa Ávila Navarro.
    This conference will attempt to show the role played by women in the world of culture in Al-Andalus. To do so, the information found in the biographies included in Arab biographic dictionaries has been used. Although the number of women who are listed in these works is low —just over one hundred— they allow us to determine what type of activities women performed in the world of knowledge and their relationship with the society in which they lived. Teachers, disciples, scientific disciplines, marriage: these are a few of the topics that will be discussed. When analyzing these subjects, it becomes clear that inequality existed in the world of culture between free women and slaves, which reflects the differentiated roles they played in the society of Al-Andalus.

    María Luisa Ávila Navarro is a scientific researcher who focuses on Arab biographical literature, the history of Al-Andalus and Al-Andalus historiography. She has a PhD in Semitic Philology and is an Arabist at the School of Arab Studies in Granada (CSIC). She has authored many publications and books, the most notable of which include: Estudios onomástico-biográficos de al-Ándalus (1989-1990) [Onomastic and Biographic Studies of Al-Andalus (1989-1990)]. She has also written countless contributions to books, such as Biografías y género biográfico en el occidente islámico (Biographies and Biographic Gender in the Islamic West, 1997), in collaboration with Manuela Marín, and La mujer en al-Ándalus: reflejos históricos de su actividad y categorías sociales (Women in Al-Andalus: Historical reflections upon their activity and social categories, 1989) with María Jesús Viguera, to which she contributed her excellent research work titled Wise Women in Al-Andalus.
  • Musical development among the women of Al-Andalus 

    Musical development among the women of Al-Andalus 

    May 30, 20187:30 p.m.
    CóRDOBA
    Casa Árabe Auditorium (at Calle Samuel de los Santos Gener, 9). 7:30 p.m. Free entry until the event’s capacity is reached.
    In Spanish.
    Fourth conference in the cycle “Nisá al-Ándalus: Historical reflections on women in Al-Andalus,” given by Inmaculada Serrano Hernández.
    The main purpose of this conference revolves around the need to acknowledge the fundamental role played by women devoted to music throughout history, placing a special emphasis on the women artists of Al-Andalus. This need is caused by the little recognition which women have received as creators and interpreters of their work. A brief historical overview will be provided, including the figures from the past who have influenced them and their later change and development in the art of music.

    Inmaculada Serrano Hernández is a professor of Spanish Language and Literature at the Instituto San Álvaro in Cordoba. She has been an Arabist since 2007, when she began her work researching the women writers of of Al-Andalus to increase awareness about them in education. She later expanded her studies to all of the female figures who stood out in the history of Cordoba in any social and cultural arena. She has given countless gender-based tours in Cordoba, contributing to several entities, the most notable of which are the Delegation of Education and Science of Cordoba, the Cordoba Center for Teachers and the headquarters of Casa Árabe in Cordoba.
  • The Women Poets of Al-Andalus and Their Key Model: Wallada

    The Women Poets of Al-Andalus and Their Key Model: Wallada

    June 21, 20187:30 p.m.
    CóRDOBA
    Casa Árabe Auditorium (at Calle Samuel de los Santos Gener, 9). 7:30 p.m. Free entry until the event’s capacity is reached.
    In Spanish.
    Professor Teresa Garulo is giving this conference in Cordoba, as part of a series devoted to Historical Reflections on Women in Al-Andalus. On this occasion, we will be discussing the women poets of the era.
    It is well-known that medieval Arab sources preserve allusions, information and vestiges of the poetic activity carried out by women in a greater amount than do other cultures existing at the same time and in the same area. However, even so the information therein and the space devoted to women are sometimes nearly insignificant compared with the literary information that they have passed down to us about works by men. The reasons are of many types: the model of society, which imposes sexual segregation that can only be done away with under very specific circumstances, and a concept of honor tied to the (in)visibility of women; the literary cannons of the time, modeled on the basis of literary production by men, and the control over the transmission of culture, always in the hands of men. And, as in many genres of Arabic poetry, which are meant to meet the needs of a society with a mainly oral tradition, the presence of an audience is required to pass on the works, making the potential for poems composed by women to become known to men quite low.

    The same occurred in Al-Andalus. And that explains why the individuals who passed on the work of women poets seem to have almost always been the male members of their families, generally the same persons who were responsible for their education, yet they still attempted not to go beyond the limits of decorum required by their non-exposure in public. This is why anonymity was frequently sought -only tribal or geographic names were often used- and there is a lack of information on biographic details.

    Some women poets’ fame, however, has transcended geographic and bibliographic borders and has turned them into idealized personages which serve purposes in different types of fiction that mainly reflect the nostalgia for a brighter past, the golden age of literature in Al-Andalus. The most notable case is that of the Umayyad princess, Wallada bint al-Mustakfi (m. 484/1091), whose biography is closely related to that of Ibn Zaydyn (m. 463/1070). Inspired by her, he composed the finest love poems of Al-Andalus.

    Conference information sheet

    Teresa Garulo
    is a professor in the Department of Arab and Islamic Studies at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Most of Garulo’s books and articles are devoted to the Arabic literature of Al-Andalus, and most notable among them are: La literatura árabe de al-Andalus durante el siglo XI (The Arab Literature of Al-Andalus in the Eleventh Century,1998) and Diwan de las poetisas de al-Andalus (Diwan of Women Poets of Al-Andalus, 1986), in which she compiled the poetry produced by the women of Al-Andalus, a topic which she has dealt with on several occasions: “La biografía de Wallada, toda problemas” (The Biography of Wallada: Nothing but trouble”), published in the journal Anaquel de estudios árabes in 2009; “Las poetisas de al-Andalus y el canon de la poesía árabe” (“The Women Poets of Al-Andalus and the Cannon of Arabic Poetry”), published in the journal La Corónica in 2003; “La poesía femenina en árabe clásico y la expresión de los sentimientos” (“Feminine Poetry in Classical Arabic and the Expression of Feelings”), in the journal Medievalia, in 1998, and “Poetisas arábigo andaluzas” (“Arab-Andalusian Women Poets”) in 1984. Other books which she has written include Los arabismos en el léxico andaluz (“Arabisms in the Andalusian Lexicon” 1983), and the anthologies and compilations of poets from Al-Andalus (Ibn Sahl of Seville, Ar-Rusafi of Valencia, Ibn Sara al-Santarini, etc.)
     
  • Visibility of Women in Al-Andalus Through Their Reflection in Archeology

    Visibility of Women in Al-Andalus Through Their Reflection in Archeology

    July 05, 20187:30 p.m.
    CóRDOBA
    Casa Árabe Auditorium (at Calle Samuel de los Santos Gener, 9). 7:30 p.m. Free entry until the event’s capacity is reached.
    In Spanish.
    Sixth conference in the cycle “Nisá al-Ándalus: Historical reflections on women in Al-Andalus,” given by María Teresa Casal.
    Studying women in “Al-Andalus” may be dealt with by analyzing the documentary corpus preserved in texts and biographical dictionaries, or from the perspective of the material quality of architectural spaces and the conserved material culture, perspectives which are both complementary and necessary. Archeology allows us to get a closer look at these research projects through the analysis of architectural forms and spaces that were built or used by and for women, including houses, or such characteristic buildings in that society as baths and mosques. Also through the preservation of objects, whether luxury items, such as chests and marble boxes, or for personal adornment, like bracelets, as well as those related with more commonplace activities, such as portable stoves and handheld mills. We can sometimes find such objects related with the world beyond through the female funerary epigraphs that have been conserved. This set of spaces and objects reflects the mark which women left behind on the society of Al-Andalus, in terms of both everyday life and in realms related with power.

    María Teresa Casal is a pre-doctoral researcher who forms part of the Department of Medieval Studies at the CSIC (Madrid), where she is completing her doctoral thesis on “The Arrabal of Saqunda.” She has taken part in various research projects. She was a member of the Convention between the Municipal Department of Urbanism and the University of Cordoba, where she was able to undertake intensive work on archeology and research in the city throughout the first decade of the twenty-first century. Specializing in the archeology of Al-Andalus, the various archeological interventions which she has directed have made it possible to delve deeper into her main lines of research: the funerary world and the period of the Umayyad emirs in Qurtuba. She has authored more than thirty publications and one monograph on “The Muslim Cemeteries of Qurtuba.” She has given many different conferences and taken part in congresses of a national and international scope, where she has presented various research projects on different aspects of the “Arrabal de Saqunda” and the Islamic funerary world.
  • Women of Al-Andalus in Public and Private Spaces

    Women of Al-Andalus in Public and Private Spaces

    September 26, 20187:30 p.m.
    CÓRDOBA
    Casa Árabe Auditorium (at Calle Samuel de los Santos Gener, 9). 7:30 p.m. Free entry until the event’s capacity is reached.
    In Spanish.
    Eva Lapiedra Gutiérrez, an associate professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Alicante, is giving this conference as part of the cycle Nisá al-Andalus: Historical reflections on women in Al-Andalus.
    The event will be presented by Inmaculada Serrano, an Arabist and professor of Spanish Language and Literature, and  Javier Rosón, Casa Árabe’s coordinator in Cordoba.

    The women of Al-Andalus have traditionally been regarded as having more freedom than the Muslim women from other places in the Arab and Islamic world, though it is also claimed that free women possessed less real freedom than did those who were slaves. This conference will deal with these topics, with reflection upon the information we have now on women in the society of Al-Andalus, focusing closely on the spaces which they occupied and the physical and psychological borders that existed in their surroundings. Topics will be brought up involving homes, streets and places which were frequented by women, as well as their roles and activities, placing a special emphasis on the terms which are used to discuss the division between public space and private space, through examples and anecdotes. Comparisons will also be made with women from other places, both inside and outside of the Arab and Islamic world.

    Conference information sheet

    Eva Lapiedra Gutiérrez
    Associate professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Alicante. She has taught and continues to teach various classes related with the history and culture of classical Islam and women in the Arab and Islamic world. Her lines of research are the terminology and ideology in historical literary texts, the transmission of historical and literary subject matter from the Arab and Islamic tradition to the Latin/Christian tradition on the Iberian Peninsula, terminology and ideology on gender in classical Islam, and women’s privacy and spaces in Muslim societies. With regard to the topic of Arab and Muslim women, she has been a member of the research team in the Project for Excellence known as “New Social Conflicts: The role of privacy. Legal, interdisciplinary and comparative analysis,” financed by the Autonomous Regional Government of Andalusia’s Department of Innovation, Science and Business. She headed the course “Feminine and feminist re-interpretations of today’s Islam,” which was given in 2010 at the University of Alicante, as well as coordinating “Feminisms in Arab Societies,” in issue 26 of the journal Feminismo/s (2015). She has published “Privacy and Intimacy in Islam: Space, views and perspectives,” in Nuevos conflictos sociales. El papel de la privacidad (New Social Conflicts: The role of privacy), E. Anarte, F. Moreno, C.R. García (eds.), ed. Iustel (2014); “Espacios y tiempos de intimidad. La mujer en el ámbito de lo inexpugnable y sagrado” (Spaces and Times for Intimacy: Women in the realm of the unassailable and sacred,” in Paisajes, espacios y objetos de devoción en el islam (Landscapes, Spaces and Objects of Worship in Islam), F. Roldán y A. Contreras (eds.), Seville (2017) and “Laicismo y feminismo en las sociedades árabes. Un binomio en entredicho (Secularism and Feminism in Arab Societies: Two concepts in question),” in Revista Clepsydra 16 (2017).
  • Patronage and the role of women in the city’s creation

    Patronage and the role of women in the city’s creation

    October 11, 20187:30 p.m
    CÓRDOBA
    Casa Árabe Auditorium (at Calle Samuel de los Santos Gener, 9). 7:30 p.m Free entry until the event’s capacity is reached.
    In Spanish.
    Carmen González Gutiérrez, a post-doctoral researcher with the Max-Weber-Kolleg at the University of Erfurt (Germany), will be giving this conference as part of the series titled “Nisá al-Andalus: Historical reflections on women in Al-Andalus.”
    The event will be presented by Inmaculada Serrano, an Arabist and professor of Spanish Language and Literature, and Javier Rosón, Casa Árabe’s Coordinator in Cordoba.

    The women of Al-Andalus have traditionally been regarded as possessing more freedom than the Muslim women from other places in the Arab and Islamic world, though it is also claimed that free women had less real freedom than did those who were slaves.

    It has traditionally been assumed that the urban landscape of Al-Andalus was a mostly masculine arena and that women’s presence was relegated to the inside of households. However, the new methodologies and perspectives provided by gender-based history, as well as the advancements in research on Islamic cities, are allowing us to get a glimpse of a different reality, in which the division between public and private realms was not so set in stone. Thus, we will attempt to approach the way in which women’s presence in public streets and spaces influenced the layout of such places. Along with this, the written sources have passed on some very valuable information to us about the financing, by women of certain social status, of infrastructures essential to the proper running of everyday life in cities, including mosques, cemeteries and water fountains. These testimonials, coupled with the excellent information recovered through archeology, allow us to ascertain how these female figures actively participated in designing urban space, in response to motivations which were religious, social, political and personal, as we shall attempt to thresh out during this talk.

    Carmen González Gutiérrez
    A post-doctoral researcher with the Max-Weber-Kolleg at the University of Erfurt (Germany), as well as a member of the “Sísifo” Archeology Research Group at the University of Cordoba, Ms. González Gutiérrez earned a PhD for her doctoral thesis on “The Mosques of Islamic Cordoba: Concept, types and urban function.” She has devoted numerous publications to analysing the role played by small mosques in the process for the genesis, transformation and development of urban spaces in Al-Andalus. She is currently performing her work as a researcher within the framework of the project “Religion and Urbanity: Mutual formations” at the University of Erfurt, where she analyzes how religious spaces and precepts influenced the urban landscape and its meanings in the Middle Ages.
  • Berber Women in Al-Andalus

    Berber Women in Al-Andalus

    October 18, 20187:30 p.m.
    CÓRDOBA
    Casa Árabe Auditorium (at Calle Samuel de los Santos Gener, 9). 7:30 p.m. Free entry until the event’s capacity is reached.
    In Spanish.
    Helena de Felipe, an associate professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Alcalá, is giving this conference as part of the cycle “Nisá al-Andalus: Historical reflections on women in Al-Andalus.” 
    The event will be presented by Inmaculada Serrano, an Arabist and professor of Spanish Language and Literature, and Javier Rosón, Casa Árabe’s Coordinator in Cordoba.

    Throughout the period of Al-Andalus, the Berbers crossed the Iberian Peninsula on many occasions, settling in various regions and finding a niche in different social groups. Though the visibility of the Berbers is complex in general, that of Berber women is to an even greater degree. They undoubtedly formed part of the population movements which, like those by men, ended up melding into the population of Al-Andalus.

    This conference will discuss the presence of Berber women in Al-Andalus through Arab sources. The information we have on them, though scarce, will allow us to create various profiles of women who managed to emerge from anonymity. Slaves, wise women and warriors, the fact that they were Berber forces us to ask ourselves whether they displayed any traits that distinguished them from all the other women of Al-Andalus and to what degree that status was reflected in texts.

    Helena de Felipe
    An associate professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Alcalá, her research has focused on the history of the Berbers, the medieval Islamic West and Spanish-Moroccan relations (in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries). Some of her most notable publications include Onomástica e identidad de los bereberes de al-Andalus (“Onomastics and Identity of Berbers in Al-Andalus”); “Berber Language through Arab Eyes,” “Leyendas árabes sobre el origen de los bereberes” (“Arab Legends About the Origin of the Berbers”) and “The Berbers in Spanish Colonial Discourse,” as well as others.  She participated as a co-editor in the volumes titled Genealogy and Knowledge in Muslim Societies: Understanding the Past (with S. Bowen Savant), Ángel Cabrera: ciencia y proyecto colonial en Marruecos (“Ángel Cabrera: Science and the Colonial Project in Morocco”), with L. López-Ocón and M. Marín) and El protectorado español en Marruecos. Gestión colonial e identidades (“Administration of the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco: Colonial management and identities,” with F. Rodríguez Mediano).
     
  • The ˝Sultanas” of the Alhambra

    The ˝Sultanas” of the Alhambra

    October 25, 20187:30 p.m.
    CÓRDOBA
    Casa Árabe Auditorium (at Calle Samuel de los Santos Gener, 9). 7:30 p.m. Free entry until the event’s capacity is reached.
    In Spanish.
    Bárbara Boloix Gallardo will be speaking in Cordoba on Thursday, October 25 about the “Life, Entity and Identity of Royal Nasrid Women: The ‘Sultanas’ of the Alhambra,” as part of our series devoted to women in Al-Andalus.
    Throughout this conference, the important role played by the women of the Nasrid dynasty in different arenas in the Alhambra’s politics will be analyzed, as well as identifying which women illustrated this, despite the attempts by medieval Arab historiography to conceal their presence and influence. The different ethnic, cultural and religious identities of the Nasrid “sultanas,” coupled with the social and legal differences which existed amongst them based on their greater or lesser degree of freedom, will be analyzed at this presentation.

    Conference information sheet  

    Bárbara Boloix Gallardo is an Arabist with a European PhD in Arabic Philology from the University of Granada (2007). Her main line of research focuses on the history of Granada’s Nasrid kingdom, about which she has written many different publications and reports at various national and international congresses. Her research work has taken her to institutions in the Arab world, such as Al-Manar University in Tunisia and the University of Cairo in Egypt, as well as European universities like the University of London and American universities such as the University of Puerto Rico and Washington University in St. Louis (USA), where she spent a post-doctoral research stay and taught a course on the History of Al-Andalus. Her publications include monographs such as De la Taifa de Arjona al Reino Nazarí de Granada (1232-1246), (From the Taifa of Arjona to the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada [1232-1246], Jaén, 2006), Las Sultanas de la Alhambra. Las grandes desconocidas del Reino Nazarí de Granada (siglos XIII-XV), (The ˝Sultanas” of the Alhambra: The great unknowns from Granada’s Nasrid Kingdom [13th-15th centuries], Granada, 2013), chapters in books that include “The Genealogical Legitimization of the Nasrid Dynasty (13th-15th Centuries): The Alleged Ansari Origins of the Banu Nasr” (Oxford, 2014) and articles such as “Women and Power in the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada: Fatima bint al-Ahmar, the main pearl on the dynasty’s necklace (14th century)” (2016), as well as others. She is currently a professor in the Department of Semitic Studies at the University of Granada.
PROVISIONAL SCHEDULE
Academic directors: Carmen González Gutiérrez and Inmaculada Serrano Hernández.


Thursday, March 8
8:00-8:30 p.m. Opening event
Isabel Ambrosio, Mayor of Cordoba
Pedro Martínez-Avial, the General Director of Casa Árabe

Opening conference:
Manuela Marín: The women of Al-Andalus: images, myths, history

Thursday, April 19
María Elena Díez Jorge: The “history of gender”: a historical approach and methodology

Tuesday, April 24
María Luisa Ávila Navarro: Biographic study of women in Al-Andalus

Wednesday, May 30
Inmaculada Serrano Hernández: Musical development by the women of Al-Andalus

Wednesday, June 13
Maram Al Masri The figure of Wallada: A selection of poems

Thursday, June 21
Teresa Garulo Muñoz: The women poets of Al-Andalus and their key model: Wallada

Thursday, July 5
María Teresa Casal García: Life cycle, rites and rituals of women in Al-Andalus

Wednesday, September 26
Eva Lapiedra Gutierrez: Women of Al-Andalus in public and private spaces

Thursday, October 18
Helena De Jesús De Felipe Rodríguez: Berber women in Al-Andalus

Thursday, October 11
Carmen González Gutiérrez: Patronage and the role of women in the city’s creation

Thursday, October 25
Bárbara Boloix Gallardo: Women in the kingdoms of “taifas.” The sultanas of the Alhambra

Thursday, November 15   
Closing conference
María Jesús Viguera Molins: Historical reflections on women in Al-Andalus