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Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 337–360 | Cite as

Polarization and the Limits of Politicization: Cordoba’s Mosque-Cathedral and the Politics of Cultural Heritage

  • Avi AstorEmail author
  • Marian Burchardt
  • Mar Griera
Article
  • 56 Downloads

Abstract

This article examines a recent controversy over the Catholic Church’s registration of Cordoba’s iconic Mosque-Cathedral as official Church property in 2006. In analyzing the controversy, we take up broader theoretical questions regarding the politicization and contestation of national cultural heritage, and the sociology of public controversy more generally. Drawing upon Alexander’s work on civil discourse and practice, we focus on the importance of performative aspects of civic debate. We argue that effective performances of “publicness” involving the conscientious suppression of visible signs of particularity, especially those related to Islam, have been critical to the successful politicization of the Mosque-Cathedral’s ownership and management. Politicization, however, has not produced any significant movement toward consensual resolution. In explaining this failure, we offer a more nuanced account of the conditions that limit the potential for consensus and “civil repair” as an outcome of public controversy in deeply divided societies. Our findings also have implications for understanding the growing role of international institutions and declarations in shaping the contours of localized controversies surrounding national cultural heritage.

Keywords

Cultural heritage Patrimony Public controversy Cordoba Catholic Church Mosque Islam Spain 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank Abigail Balbale for her thoughtful reflections on a previous draft of this article. We are also grateful for the insightful comments provided by the anonymous reviewers and editors of Qualitative Sociology.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  2. 2.Department of SociologyLeipzig UniversityLeipzigGermany

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