Courting convivencia: Hispano-Arab identity and Spanish women’s Orientalism in the Franco regime’s years of “unbearable solitude” (1946–1950)

Publication year
Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies

The versions available from the University of Sheffield and CORE appear to be pre-print versions, with incorrect pagination.

Here's the abstract:

The disturbing duality of the figure of the Moor as ancestral “other” in Spanish culture was refashioned during the first part of the twentieth century as a result of the colonial campaigns in Morocco (1909–1927) and, most memorably, the deployment of North African troops on the Rebel side during the Civil War. Propagandistic efforts to justify their involvement had a significant afterlife via the symbolic privileging of the Moor and exaltation of Hispano-Arab amity during the early Franco regime when it pursued a “courtship” with newly decolonized Arab states in a bid to counteract international ostracism. Locating this courtship within the wider framework of the promotion of hispanidad, this article investigates the reception of overlapping Francoist discourses on raza and Hispano-Arab identity in a selection of contemporaneous Orientalist romance novels by young Spanish women authors whose engagement with such concerns has hitherto been overlooked. It interrogates the strikingly pro-miscegenation stance evident in their reworking of the more conservative popular 1920s British desert-romance genre and considers the possible meanings of their affective espousal of convivencia in the postwar climate of profound social cleavages and violently prescribed gender identities that intersected with aspects of the regime’s “self-Orientalization”.


I suggest that whereas the British narratives unmask their heroes as European, the Spanish narrativesinsistence on religious conversion can be interpreted in a more metaphorical sense (facilitated by cultural notions of raza) that relates to the social cleavages of the postwar period. [...] My intention thus is not to make an essentialist claim that the Spanish female imaginary was more open-minded regarding miscegenation when compared to male cultural producers, or to British desert-romance novelists. Rather, I am interested in investigating the frequent appearance of mixed relationships in the postwar climate of international ostracism and the regimes attendant promotion of hispanidad. (343)


Two of María Adela Durango’s novels, El príncipe Harasi Kaddur (1947) and La prisionera de Baroda (1950), thematize conversion; religious conversion in the first is followed by a more politically inflected version of conversion in the second. I will begin with Harasi Kaddur, as it appears to be the earliest Spanish “sheikh romance” and, possibly because of that, the only one to dwell on religion, handled superficially elsewhere. Durango may also have felt a religious engagement necessary because the Arab hero is not presented as having mixed ancestry. (349)