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

Avi Astor, Marian Burchardt, Mar Griera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

10 Citations (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-360
Number of pages24
JournalQualitative Sociology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2019


  • Catholic Church
  • Cordoba
  • Cultural heritage
  • Islam
  • Mosque
  • Patrimony
  • Public controversy
  • Spain


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