Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group



This thesis investigates the problem of how an historical identity persists within a community in Rabat, Morocco, that traces its ancestry to Spain. Called Andalusians, these Moroccans are descended from Spanish Muslims who were first forced to convert to Christianity after 1492, and were expelled from the Iberian peninsula in the early seventeenth century. I conducted both ethnographic and historical archival research among Rabati Andalusian families. There are four main reasons for the persistence of the Andalusian identity in spite of the strong acculturative forces of religion, language, and culture in Moroccan society. First, the presence of a strong historical continuity of the Andalusian heritage in North Africa has provided a dominant history into which the exiled communities could integrate themselves. Second, the predominant practice of endogamy, as well as other social practices, reinforces an intergenerational continuity among Rabati Andalusians. Third, the Andalusian identity is a single identity that has a complex range of sociocultural contexts in which it is both meaningful and flexible. And fourth, non-Andalusian Moroccans reinforce the cultural meanings behind the importance of being Andalusian, based on the affinity most Moroccans have for the Andalusian Spanish heritage. The dissertation concludes by drawing upon comparative ethnographic material by way of testing the validity of the four reasons in contexts outside of Morocco. This thesis contributes both theoretically and ethnographically to the anthropological literature. Theoretically, it offers a general pattern to the persistence of identity while also utilizing and building onto synchronic identity studies and studies of acculturation and assimilation in anthropology by looking at the processual context of the Andalusian identity. Ethnographically, this dissertation contributes a description of a cultural group so far not represented in anthropology and also looks at a culturally elite group, a class that is under-represented in the literature.

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