The Sublime South: Andalusia, Orientalism, and the Making of Modern Spain is the first systematic study on cultural images of Andalusia as Spain’s “Orient” and the impact they have had on nation-building and modernization since the late nineteenth century. While a wealth of studies have examined how northern Europeans from the Romantic period viewed Spain and Andalusia as Europe’s Orient, little attention has been paid to how contemporary Spanish artists and intellectuals assimilated Romantic legacies to engage in an internal form of orientalism.
José Luis Venegas deftly explores Spain’s shifting engagements with oriental identity and otherness by looking, not just beyond national, ethnic, and racial borders, but at a territory that is institutionally embedded in the nation-state while symbolically placed between inclusion and abjection. The Sublime South shifts the focus and scale of Edward Said’s notion of orientalism by examining how it evolves and manifests transnationally, as the result of European colonialism in Africa and Asia, and intra-nationally, in a European yet orientalized country. Finally, Venegas challenges ethnocentric notions of Iberian cultures and fosters an understanding of the encounters between Western and Muslim cultures beyond opposing, and often mutually negating, essentialisms.