Learning Across Boundaries (LABs)

Al-Andalus, Andalucía and National Identity in Southern Spain

February to March 2019

A Spring LAB led by Professors Eduardo Lage-Otero and Amparo Espadas

The origin of a unified kingdom of Spain can be traced back to the 15th century and the religious wars against the Moors. The Moors conquered the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century after having crossed the Strait of Gibraltar but by the late 1400s, their dominance had been reduced to the Taifa kingdom of Granada, which fell to the Catholic armies in 1492. At that juncture, muslims living in the peninsula were forced to convert to Christianity or face expulsion, a fate also shared by the Jews. Converted muslims who decided to stay (or moriscos) endured frequent discrimination and persecution for not being deemed true Christians. They were first pushed to the Alpujarras region of Granada and would eventually be expelled from Spain in 1609. This shared but troubled history has defined the relationship between Spain and its North African neighbors for centuries. It has also contributed in significant ways to the development of Spanish identity and how others have viewed this country. In fact, many elements of Moorish culture have continued to flourish over the centuries through a process of adaptation and transformation.

Participants in this LAB will explore how the Moorish conquest of and rule over the Iberian peninsula for seven centuries shaped Andalucía and the country as a whole. They will study its architecture and urban design (e.g. private dwellings, public baths, architectural innovations), its land use and agricultural crops (e.g., orange, lemon, and cotton crops were introduced at this time), and its social and religious challenges (the coexistence of muslims, christians and Jews for several centuries). They will visit the original Moorish seats of power in Córdoba and Granada to understand how the Moors ruled, first as a Caliphate and then as Taifa Kingdoms, and some of their remarkable achievements. They will learn about the scientific advances the Moors introduced (e.g., paper and Arabic numerals, navigational instruments), their cultural refinement and extensive knowledge of Classical texts, and how this knowledge was then transferred to Christian Spain and the rest of Europe. The Moors also left their mark on the Spanish language. From names of towns and everyday objects to more specialized terms, the Moors’ culture and language has survived to this day. This influence can also be seen in the work of writers and artists who made Andalucía and its people a central element in their work. Students will learn about Federico García Lorca, his work as well as his fate at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, and composers like Manuel de Falla, who was deeply interested in the popular music and culture of Andalucía.

As part of this exploration of how Andalucía embraces its history and defines itself and its relationship to Spain and Northern Africa, we will also consider current migratory patterns from Africa into Spain. Students will learn about modern marginalized groups and their experience in their adopted country. By combining a rich historical and cultural understanding of the region with exposure to current challenges faced by Andalucia and Spain, students will develop their own understanding of complex issues (e.g., migration, national identity, historical narratives, religious tolerance, fanaticism) and come up with answers to important questions such as: what does Al-Andalus mean for modern Spain? How do we define national identity? How do we integrate various communities into a unified whole? Is religious coexistence possible in modern Spain? What should be preserved and who decides? Students will work individually or in pairs on a short research-based project that will be presented to their peers at Yale-NUS. Note: This LAB will be conducted in English, although knowing some Spanish will certainly be helpful.

DATES: Saturday, 23 February – Sunday 3 March, 2019

CO-PAY: S$1,200

OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Some need-based financial assistance will be available for students with demonstrated financial need. There will be a separate application for financial assistance after students are selected for the LAB.

Please send any questions about the LAB to Beth Uding or Annette Wu at CIPE.

Have Questions?
Annette Wu
Executive, Experiential Learning

Contact with questions about travel fellowships and LABs.


To apply, please complete the following and submit to Annette Wu annette.wu@yale-nus.edu.sg by Wednesday, 23 January 2019 at 5:00pm SGT. 

Compile the following information in a Word document named “First Name_Last Name”, and submit your application via email using the subject header “Andalucia LAB Application”.

  1. Personal Information – This information will be used if you are selected for the LAB, so please make sure all details are correct.
  • Name (as on passport)
  • Class (e.g. 2019, 2020, 2021, or 2022)
  • Email
  • Whatsapp number
  • Date of Birth (DD/MM/YYYY):
  • Passport issued by (country):
  • Passport number:
  • Languages that you speak or are studying:
  1. Statement of interest: Why do you want to participate in this LAB and how will you use this experience to further your personal, academic, and/or professional goals? (up to 300 words)
  2. What is your proposed project for the LAB? How do you intend to engage with the location and programmed activities to complete your project? More on the project requirements below. (up to 300 words)
  3. Please include a copy of your passport bio-data page when you submit your application.

Project requirements:

To apply for this LAB, students must propose a project that will help them process their experiences in Andalucía, Spain. Project proposals should link personal and academic interests with the overarching theme of the LAB: the role of this region (Andalucía) in the nation-building process of Spain. The strongest proposals will be narrow, specific and accomplishable in one week on the ground. Whom will you engage and how will you answer your research question? What kinds of information will you collect, and how will you share this with a broader audience at Yale-NUS and beyond? All projects will be presented to the Yale-NUS community shortly after the LAB.

Successful projects will fulfill the following criteria:

  • Academic rigor: The project explores a specific question or issue. The project entails doing research prior to, during, and after the LAB. Research done prior to the LAB should be included in the proposal. The final project should include a bibliography.
  • Connection to personal, professional and/or academic interests: The project aligns well with the student’s stated interests and contributes meaningfully to his/her intellectual development.
  • Length: The project will require a significant commitment and effort on the part of the student, including a tangible final product, to be completed shortly after return to Yale-NUS.
  • Focus and feasibility: The project is focused and achievable within the proposed time frame.
  • Tangible outcome: The project will lead to a tangible final product, such as a photo essay, a short paper, or a documentary.
  • Progress report: The project allows for progress reports during the LAB (e.g. over meals) and a presentation at Yale-NUS shortly after the end of the LAB.