Past Summer & Spring LABs Spring LAB 2019

Al-Andalus, Andalucía and National Identity in Southern Spain

Duration: 23 February to 3 March, 2019

Leading faculty: Dr Eduardo Lage-Otero and Ms Amparo Espadas

Participants on this LAB explored how the Moorish conquest of and rule over the Iberian peninsula for seven centuries shaped Andalucía and the country as a whole.

They studied its architecture and urban design, its land use and agricultural crops, and its social and religious challenges. The group visited 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 learned about the scientific advances the Moors introduced, their cultural refinement and extensive knowledge of Classical texts, and how this knowledge was then transferred to Christian Spain and the rest of Europe. Students also learned about the legacy of Islam and Judaism in Spanish history and the troubled history of these religions in the region.

As part of this exploration of how Andalucía embraces its history and defines itself and its relationship to Spain and Northern Africa, this LAB also considered current migratory patterns from Africa into Spain. Students learned about modern marginalised groups and their experience in their adopted country. Throughout the LAB, students worked individually and in pairs to complete a short research-based project concerning questions such as: How do we define national identity? How do we integrate various communities into a unified whole? What should be preserved and who decides? Upon return, the group presented their projects to the wider College community at Yale-NUS.

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  • This LAB allowed us to work closely with students as we explored the significance of historical events in national identity formation and their ongoing impact on modern-day debates about migration, historical memory, minority rights, cultural representation and authenticity, to name but a few. In addition to the themes we had prepared, it was a joy to learn about students’ projects and how they went about working on them during our time in Spain. Students’ engagement and excitement during a LAB are a great motivator for faculty leading these experiential learning opportunities.

    Dr Eduardo Lage-Otero
    Senior Lecturer of Humanities (Spanish) and Deputy Director of Language Studies

  • It was inspiring to take part in this LAB experience, and to witness the students’ excitement while exploring the history of Spain. They were all extremely motivated to learn about the impact of historical events on the contemporary identity and cultural aspects of the country. For me, it was particularly remarkable and exciting to rediscover all these aspects through the eyes of the students, and to experience that history through a different lens.

    Ms Amparo Espadas
    Lecturer of Humanities (Spanish)

  • On my Learning Across Boundaries project in Andalucía, Spain, I carried out a film project that features three poems about Granada, written by displaced poets who could not return to their beloved city in the face of persecution. I was extremely lucky to spend days filming the city’s beautiful sceneries, ruins, and people as described in the historical poems and meet with locals to hear about their love for Granada. This project gave me a chance to approach my academic interest in forced displacement from an artistic and literary perspective, and it was a truly refreshing and rewarding experience. I am also grateful for having met lifelong friends and mentors on this trip!

    Suyeon Lee
    Class of 2021

  • Imagine being huddled in a restaurant called 'Puerta de Syria' amidst Granada's ethereal Sierra mountain range, and sharing a loaf with the owner while talking about being Syrian in Spain's historic neighbourhood of Albaicín. It was an experience I wouldn't trade for the world, and the food was amazing too.

    Saddam Hussain
    Class of 2022