Convivencia, Coexistencia and Personhood in Ceuta, a multicultural Spanish Enclave in Morocco


Cartel from the play programmed by the Fundación Premio Convivencia, within the collaboration of the Consejería de Educación, Cultura y Mujer to be played the weekend before Ramadán month in the year 2015. The play was an adaptation of Federico García Lorca, La casa de Bernarda Alba.


Brian Campbell

The Spanish enclave of Ceuta is often depicted, by both the public media and by academia, as a ‘watch-dog’ of ‘Fortress Europe’ and the site of tragedies involving sub-Saharan migration. Less attention has been devoted to the cosmopolitan population of Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus that calls the enclave home. This presentation briefly describes how the inhabitants of Ceuta are trying to use the notion of convivencia to pry apart strongly held models of Spanish national identity and thus try to manage the enclave’s mounting ethno-religious tensions.

I will explain how, in practice, the Ceutan model of convivencia is riddled with inherent contradictions and vulnerable to all sorts of political hijackings and post-colonial suspicions that exacerbate ethno-religious antagonisms. It then introduces the two main questions opened by my doctoral research.

First, I engage with the Ceutan distinction between convivencia and coexistencia as competing administrative policies and models of social organization. I ask what each model implies and why they are locally hierarchically arranged, with convivencia deemed superior. Most importantly, I ask what this distinction implies for academia, which generally treats the two concepts as identical.

Second, I will examine to what extent these juro-administrative models are reproduced in the intimacy of daily life by looking at marriage between Ceutans of different religions and the naming of their children (mestizos), at once celebrated as the literal embodiment of convivencia and derided as the best example of its failure. Both questions demonstrate how anthropology – through its methodology and theoretical toolset - can constructively contribute to multidisciplinary debates on convivencia as an analytical concept.