Perspectives on City History and Their Interdependency with Constructions of Belonging in Ceuta and Melilla

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Eva BAHL, Center of Methods in Social Sciences, University of Goettingen, Germany
In my paper, I will discuss the interdependencies between life- and collective histories, perspectives on history and constructions of belonging in Ceuta and Melilla. These two Spanish cities in the north of Africa were conquered in the wake of the so-called Reconquista in the 15th century and have been Spanish ever since. The two cities played a central role in the colonial period of Spanish-Morocco (1913-1956) and were the setting for a military coup that led to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Today they are known all over the world because of the high fences that surround them to prevent illegalized migrants from entering this small piece of the European Union on the African continent.

My research, which deploys biographical and ethnographic methods, explores how these border cities’ conflictual histories are remembered and referred to by members of different groupings and how these historical perspectives relate to their respective constructions of belonging. It is part of the project “The Social Construction of Border Zones”, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Nowadays, the proportion of the population in these two cities that is Muslim and/or Moroccan is growing constantly. As a result, power balances are shifting slowly, and part of the Christian-Spanish population feels endangered by this societal change that is perceived by them as “Moroccanization”. Furthermore, there is a tendency in the established population to harmonize the conflictual history (and present) of these cities by a discourse of peaceful coexistence (“convivencia”). On the basis of my empirical analysis, I argue that this discourse essentializes cultural differences and hinders the negotiation of historical conflicts and power inequalities.