Struggling Toward al-Andalus: An Exploration of Attitudes in Andalusia Toward Immigration from Morocco

Date of Completion

January 2011


Anthropology, Cultural|European Studies|Sociology, Social Structure and Development




For centuries, impoverished Andalusians from southern Spain have emigrated to the New World, northern Europe and northern Spain as both immigrants and guest workers. Spain's transition to democracy and increasing affluence, which preceded wide-scale, rapid immigration in the 1980s, have changed this historical region of emigration forever. Today, Andalusia receives immigrants from Latin America, northern Europe, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia - with Moroccans representing one of the largest immigrant groups. Research completed in Spain to date indicates that immigrants from Morocco generally experience social and economic marginalization, and many scientific observers posit that this may be rooted in the historical and cultural context of Spain; specifically, the centuries long animosities between Catholics and Muslims on the peninsula. However, while many studies have quantitatively measured the attitudes of Spaniards toward immigration and immigrants, quantitative survey questionnaires that measured attitudes are not designed to explore cultural-type data, and so the salience of the cultural and historic contexts in informing and framing immigration from Morocco, although widely theorized, has remained unclear. ^ This research investigates how the macro-, meso- and micro-level context(s) of Andalusia inform and structure the way that immigration is framed in Andalusia. It moves beyond merely theorizing about the role of culture in informing attitudes by systematically exploring the shared meanings embedded in participants' narratives about immigration and immigration-related issues. Data were elicited from natives of Andalusia through an open-ended qualitative interview protocol and free listing exercises and analyzed using a modified grounded theory approach. These data reveal a richer, more complete and accurate understanding of how culture, located at the micro-level of analysis, intersects with macro- and meso-level factors located in the historical, social, economic and political contexts of Andalusia and Spain to inform shared understandings among Andalusia's natives regarding immigration. Findings from this ethnographic, meaning-centered approach to understanding attitudes reveal how study participants frame issues related to immigration and ultimately how the model of integration preferred by Andalusians simultaneously presents opportunities for the integration of immigrants from Morocco while potentially placing them at risk of marginalization. ^