In 2003 a mosque was inaugurated in Granada, overcoming opposition voiced by neighbors, officials, and cultural institutions during two decades of heated debate. At issue was the meaning of the mosque within the contexts of local, regional, national, and global history. Current, large-scale immigration of North African Muslims stands clearly in the background. There was, however, a prior movement of conversion to Islam by young Spanish Christians in and around Granada at the end of the Franco dictatorship. These neo-Muslims conceived and built the Great Mosque of Granada, whose architectural design and decoration mobilize contested historical and cultural narratives. The mosque poses the fraught ideological issues in terms of what will be visible (or invisible) and to whom. The site of the mosque at the summit of the Albayzín hill, facing the Alhambra, has been the crux of entangled visualities. The mosque is not only an object of the gaze but also a privileged subject position for the gaze, in rivalry with the Christian gaze from the adjacent Church of San Nicolás and its mirador. The new mosque is a key to the transformation of the discourse of Spain’s relation to its Muslim past into debate about its Muslim present.
Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Cultures of the Islamic World is sponsored by the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Muqarnas 32, subtitled “Gazing Otherwise: Modalities of Seeing In and Beyond the Lands of Islam” and guest edited by Olga Bush and Avinoam Shalem, is the outcome of a two-day conference (“Gazing Otherwise: Modalities of Seeing”) held at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence in October 2012. Along with introductions by each of the guest editors, the volume contains ten articles that examine the gaze and the aesthetic experience of the beholder as they are constructed, depicted, and theorized within the culture-specific frameworks pertinent to the field of Islamic studies, through approaches developed in the fields of art history, visual culture, and anthropology.
Authors include Samer Akkach, Olga Bush, Holly Edwards, Emine Fetvacı, Laura U. Marks, Gülru Necipoğlu, D. Fairchild Ruggles, Matthew D. Saba, Avinoam Shalem, and Eva-Maria Troelenberg.