The University Record, October 5, 1992

Conference ‘commemorates quincentennial of a different type’

By Terry Gallagher
News and Information Services

When Columbus left Spain for the west, Muslims and Jews went east.

As Columbus left on his voyages, Spanish Jews were being exiled, persecuted or forced to convert to Christianity. And in 1492, Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Europe, was taken in the Christian reconquest of Spain.

While numerous celebrations across the country are marking the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s voyages to the New World, a conference organized by the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies “will commemorate a quincentennial of a different type, acknowledging the expulsion of the Muslims (‘Moors’) and Jews from Spain in 1492.”

The free, public conference, “1492: Perspectives from the Middle East and North Africa,” will be held Oct. 11–12 in Rackham Amphitheater. Speakers include A.B. Yehoshua, one of Israel’s leading novelists; and Salma Jayyusi, a poet, critic and novelist whose most recent publications are An Anthology of Modern Palestinian Literature and The Legacy of Muslim Spain.

Lectures and panel discussions will focus on historical and cultural perspectives of eight centuries of Muslim and Jewish presence in what is now Spain, “and trace the Andalusian legacy in modern Arabic and Hebrew literatures and cultures,” according to conference organizers.

The Oct. 11 session of the conference will begin at noon with the film The Final Solution: Islam in Spain. Panel discussions will begin at 1:15 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., when Yehoshua will speak on “The Sephardic Dimension in My Identity as a Writer.”

On Oct. 12, a panel discussion on “1492 and the Contemporary Mediterranean World” will begin at 1:15 p.m., to be followed by a reception at 3:45 p.m.

In addition to the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, sponsors for the conference include the Rockefeller Foundation, and the following

U-M units: the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, the Office of International Academic Programs, the Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, and the departments of comparative literature, history, history of art, Near Eastern studies and Romance languages.

The year-long series of programs examining the events of 1492 from a Jewish perspective will continue with a conference Nov. 8–9 on “Jews, Conversos and the Inquisition in the New World.” Details on that program will be published in an upcoming issue of the Record.