Month: December 2017 (page 1 of 2)

Kerri Lesh interviewed by Basque newspaper Berria


PC to Monika del Valle

This past month, in between traveling from Bilbo to Donostia for the II. Sagardo Forum – Sagardoaren Lurraldea, I was interviewed by Lander Muñagorri Garmendia from the Basque newspaper Berria  about my dissertation project.  As I am constantly improving my Basque-speaking skills, we switched back and forth between Spanish and Euskara over a beer at a local bar while I described my project and findings over the last year as a doctoral student.

Here is a translated portion of the interview from Basque paper:


How did you come to start researching about the use of Basque on labels?

I am a [Teaching Assistant] teacher at the Nevada School of Basque Studies, and I have a small obsession with txakoli: I really like it. I study sociolinguistics, and they told me why I did not connect the two areas. In Northern Europe there is a group [of researchers/scholars] that investigates minority languages and labeling, and from there I started researching. I started with txakoli, and I continued with labels of Rioja Alavesa wine, milk,  craft beers….

Which products are used more in Basque?

Milk, and then cider. And it is  interesting what language is used to export outside the Basque Country, there is a lot of Basque. It is true that it is difficult to make different labels and each with their own destination. [In the case of wine, for example, which is why so many producers make a label focusing on the languages used by the majority, such as English or Spanish].


You have studied the languages chosen on beverage labels. Did you have to try a lot of wine and txakoli?

Yes, a lot. I think that I have chosen a good subject (laughter). I went to several cider houses and txakoli bodegas to study local products, and to consumers as well. For example, I carried out interviews in the txokos [gastronomic societies] of Bilbao, where they serve Rioja wine. Many people know and ask for local products, but most just ask for any Rioja wine, and not specifically from Rioja Alavesa.  It was interesting to observe that.

Does the geographic area affect [language use on labels]?

Yes, I think that in the Northern Basque Country they use a lot of symbols and it’s more folkloric. But this difference is still to be investigated, what people consume and how this language is utilized. As for the difference in the marketing of the Southern and Northern Basque Country, I think that there is a different way of living a language. I am now seeing and starting to understand how people that speak a minority language live. I previously did not understand [how this affected daily life], and from an anthropological point of view I think it’s important to see how this affects many people and causes frustration.


It was so great to hear from so many of you after reading the article-thank you all for the love, support, and opportunity to continue learning…





Territories: Journal of Regional Studies

Iker Arranz, Ph.D. and Lecturer in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and, of course, graduate of the Center for Basque Studies, is now Editor-in-Chief of the new journal Territories. There is Call for Papers for the upcoming issue and I encourage all academics who read this blog to participate. The following is a letter from Dr. Arranz describing the project and inviting you to participate:

Dear colleagues and friends,

I am very much pleased to announce the creation of Territories, a new journal of regional studies with an interdisciplinary and innovative scope on post-national spaces and trans-cultural scenarios.

This journal is an Open Access journal based on the e-Scholarship repository at the University of California. I have been working in this project for more than 4 years now, and this journal represents the joined effort of many scholars in the Basque Country and American Academia that saw the necessity to create this trans-national space for academic debate on many issues that we share with a myriad of communities around the world. The journal takes off with more than 30 scholars and graduate students in its editorial board, and we are opened for new incorporations coming from humanities and social sciences.

Geopolitics in the 21st century are determining the living conditions of thousands, if not millions, of people around the world with a clear dilution of the role of the states in the political configuration of federal realities under strict economic policies. Under these conditions the territorial and social justice of a multiplicity of cultural communities face new challenges that this journal is resolved to discuss. This journal aims to think beyond nations and nationalities and propose the dialogue between diferent disciplines in order to activate what the multiplicity of cultural expressions have to offer when they are put into intersections in order to promote an academic debate.

We will open the first number of the journal with an article by Dr. Igor Calzada (Oxford University) titled Back and Forth Towards the (Political) Basque City-Region (Revisiting ‘Euskal Hiria’ Through the Lenses of Regional Studies).

Finally I would like to thank to everyone that is involved in this project and has supported it from the beginning for contributing to make it possible.

Please check out journal´s website for all the information related for authors, CFPs, etc. at Territories.

All the best,

Iker Arranz Otaegui, Ph.D.

Editor in Chief

Be sure to check out the website for more details and information on the CFP at Territories.

The Basque film HANDIA is nominated for 13 Goya Awards


handia pelicula bilaketarekin bat datozen irudiak

The Basque movie Handia (Giant) has been nominated for 13 Goya awards, including best film, best director, and best script. The Goya Awards are granted annually by the Academy of Arts and Cinematographic Sciences of Spain.

handia pelicula bilaketarekin bat datozen irudiak

The film appears to be quite interesting as it is based on a true story.  The film begins after one of the protagonists, Martin, returns to his family farmhouse in Gipuzkoa after fighting in the First Carlist War. There he discovers that his younger brother, Miguel Joaquín, is much taller than usual. Convinced that everyone will want to pay to see the greatest man on Earth, both brothers embark on a long journey through Europe in which ambition, money, and fame will forever change the destiny of the family.  

handia pelicula bilaketarekin bat datozen irudiak

The film Handia tells the true story of Miguel Joaquin Eleizegi Arteaga, a character who in the mid-nineteenth century was known as the Giant of Alzo. Born in 1819 in the Gipuzkoan town of Alzo, he suffered from acromegaly, a disease caused by a defect in the pituitary gland that causes excessive secretion of growth hormones. Miguel Joaquin came to weigh 467 pounds and measured 7’4 feet tall. Unfortunately, Miguel Joaquin died very young at the age of 43 from tuberculosis.

Gigante de Alzo bilaketarekin bat datozen irudiak

If you want to know more about  Basque Cinema you might like to read the following books: The Basque Nation on Screen: Cinema, Nationalism, and  Political Violence Basque Cinema.



Kerri Lesh presents a panel on Basque “terroir” for the American Anthropological Association

Before heading across the better half of the continental USA, I had a chance to reintegrate with a little action in Washington DC just a couple of weeks ago. I was nervous and excited to chair, present, and  co-organized, alongside Anne Lally, the panel “Taste and Terroir as Anthropological Matter” at the annual American Anthropological Association meeting. My panel was titled “The sociolinguistic economy of terroir: constructing and marketing identity in the Basque Country”. In this paper I discussed how the concept of terroir was directly and indirectly translated into Basque within various gastronomic contexts. The result was to show how this multi-faceted concept of terroir provides a lens for looking at which components become most salient to Basques in the process, and what that in turn shows about the values portrayed in social, linguistic, and gastronomic production.

It was an amazing opportunity as I was luckily enough to secure Amy Trubek, one of my academic idols and author of “Taste of Place;  A Cultural Journey into Terroir”. It was well attended with questions to follow that provide further food for thought. Afterward, it was everyone to the bar for a round of drinks, which was my favorite part-not because I love wine, but because it is at these AAA meetings that I feel I have found my academic family. Cheers, and stay tuned to see what becomes of the panel! Rumor has it, it’s not over yet…

Flashback Friday: December 13, 1491: Birth of canonist, theologian, and pioneering economist Martin de Azpilicueta, “Doctor Navarrus”

By Katu:


Martin de Azpilicueta Jauregizar was born in Barasoain, Navarre, on December 13, 1491 into an influential Navarrese family. He began studying for a degree in theology at the University of Alcalá de Henares in Castile. However, when the Kingdom of Castile invaded and conquered the Kingdom of Navarre in 1510 he fled, together with his family (which was loyal to the ruling royal house of Navarre), to Toulouse in the Kingdom of France.

Family home

In 1518 he obtained a doctorate in canon law from the University of Toulouse. He was ordained a priest, likewise, in Toulouse, and in 1523 returned to Navarre, spending time at the Augustinian monastery in Orreaga (Roncesvalles-Roncevaux). Between 1524 and 1538, Azpilicueta served in several canon law chairs at the University of Salamanca. Thereafter, he taught at Coimbra University in Portugal for a further sixteen years before retiring. He then returned to Navarre, where he took on the responsibility of raising three of his orphaned nieces. A decade later, in 1568, he went to Rome to help defend Bartolomé Carranza, the Archbishop of Toledo, in a protracted trial before the Inquisition. While there, Azpilicueta also served as an advisor to Pope Gregory XIII and Pope Sixtus V, and he eventually died in Rome in 1586 at the age of ninety-three. 

Manuale de’confessori

Also known by the epithet Doctor Navarrus (The Navarrese Doctor), Azpilicueta became enormously influential in the field of canon law and ethics, earning a reputation as a humble, prudent, and erudite scholar. Throughout his life he turned down several opportunities to occupy high-ranking church positions, preferring instead to dedicate his time to scholarly inquiry and offering legal advice. His Manual de confesores y penitents (Manual of confessors and penitents, 1553) was especially significant, marking an important milestone in the emergence of moral theology as a discipline in its own right. Therein, Azpilicueta also addressed issues such as exchange, supply, and demand, as well as the phenomenon of money, leading some observers to regard the text as a pioneering work of early economics.  

Dr. Xabier Irujo presents at the 52. Durangoko Azoka

While wrapping up my fieldwork after spending a year here in the Basque Country, I took a day to travel from Bilbao to Durango to see the famous Durango Book Fair. Aside from getting to travel with a friend to this happening scene, with numerous publishers, book stores, and new media, I was able to see a familiar face. Professor Xabier Irujo was presenting his book titled “The Verdad Alternativa“, which discusses the lies and propaganda regarding the catastrophic effects of the bombing of Gernika.  The session was well attended with standing room only, with several from the audience providing follow-up questions.

Congratulations Professor Irujo!  Look forward to seeing you and everyone else at the Center for Basque Studies in January!


Asier Barandiaran: America in Basque Literature

What kinds of representations and discourses emerge in Basque literature about America and Basque Americans?

On December 7, Asier Barandiaran gave a talk at the CBS Seminar Series about the Basque diaspora in America through Basque literature. Asier has visited the Center for the fifth time in order to work and use the Basque library collection for his research purposes. Asier is Associate Professor at the Department of Education and Sport at the University of the Basque Country (EHU-UPV). He is also affiliated with the Department of Language and Literature and serves as vice president of the Basque Studies Society (Eusko Ikaskuntza).

Asier’s lecture departed from the presumption that literature does not only create texts but wider representations and discourses as well. What kinds of representations and discourses emerge in Basque literature about America, and Basque Americans? Asier made three distinctions in this regard: Basques traveling to the US, Basques living in the US, and Basque diaspora and identity maintenance in the diaspora. From improvisational poetry (bertsolaritza) to novels, a host of Basque authors have contributed to the creation of a particularly Basque imaginary in the American context: the sorrows of immigration and leaving one`s home; reminiscences about childhood and nature; the difficulties of settlement (including obtaining visas); the lonely life of sheepherders; an assortment of indigenous animals exotic to the Basque imagination; the Basque language, and the California sun have equally entered Basque literature. Eskerrik asko, Asier!






Flashback Friday: December 5, 1976: Basque flag displayed before historic match between rival Basque soccer teams

Sunday, December 5, 1976, remains a momentous date in contemporary Basque history on account of the remarkable events that took place in Atotxa Stadium, Donostia-San Sebastián: a key crossroads moment of social, political, and sporting history.

That day, the local soccer team in Donostia, Real Sociedad, took on its main rival, Athletic Bilbao in the classic Basque derby game. However, the moment that really defined the match took place before a ball was even kicked. As the two teams took to the field, the respective captains—Inaxio Kortabarria of Erreala and Jose Angel Iribar of Athletic—led their players into the contest while jointly carrying an ikurriña, the Basque flag, which was at the time an illegal act in Spain.

The flag was sown by the sister of one of the Erreala players, José Antonio de la Hoz Uranga, who himself smuggled it into the stadium that day, even managing to hide the banned symbol from a police check on the way to the game. Having done so, Kortabarria went over to the Athletic locker room and suggested the idea of jointly taking the field by holding the flag, in an act aimed at calling for its legalization over a year after the death of Spanish dictator General Franco. In the end, both captains agreed that all the players competing had to agree with the idea—something, all of them local, agreed to without reservation. In the historic photo that marks that occasion, it is de la Hoz Uranga (who did not play that day) who appears covered by the flag walking between the two captains.

Erreala beat Athletic 5-0 that day, but more importantly, the act of carrying out the ikurriña did much to accelerate the legalization of the Basque flag by the Spanish authorities. Ultimately, its public display was finally legalized on January 17, 1977.

Sport in general, including a special focus on Basque sports, is addressed in the CBS publication Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi.








Rakel Ezpeleta: Visiting Scholar

Late this summer, we had the pleasure of hosting Rakel Ezpeleta, a visiting scholar from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. She is an actress and singer born in Vitoria-Gastiez and based in Barcelona since 2001. She has a BA with Honors in History of Art from University of Basque Country (UPV/EHU) and an MA in Performance Studies from Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and Theatre Institut (IT).

For several years she has combined professional work as performer with theoretical or academic research projects: In 2007 and 2009 she was awarded grants from KREA Expresión Contemporánea to conduct a study on contemporary Basque theatre history in relation to postmodern theory; during the 2012-13 academic year, she was a Research Assistant to Dr. Henry Daniel (Simon Fraser University-Vancouver) for research/creation Project Barca: New architectures of Memory and Identity. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Theatre Studies at UAB with a trans-disciplinary project about Identity Configuration in Contemporary Experimental Basque Theatre. Her project conflates historical, anthropological and sociological approaches to contemporary theatre in Basque Country, a case study of some current mise-en-scènes, and her own artistic practice.

Rakel started studying theatre at the age of 13 in her hometown in Basque Country and she started working as a singer and actress when she was 17. After having lived in Long Island (NY) and Paris (France), she moved to Barcelona in 2002 for artistic specialist training in Musical Comedy and Meisner Technique. Since then she has launched several performing projects such as Plataforma l’Específica, Bacaret, Quasi (Maine), Pau?, La Quadra Màgica, and Confussion and Funkytown bands. Meanwhile, she has also collaborated in many short and long films, commercials and music recordings, as an actress, as a singer, and with voice-overs.

She enjoys traveling and discovering other cultures and people. Luckily for her, she has performed in many places in Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Buenos Aires and Vancouver. Her latest research/creation, Erbeste (so very eager to please), has brought her to many cities and towns in Basque Country, Catalonia, and Spain, and she is willing to also bring her work to the USA.

Without further ado, here’s our interview with Rakel:

1. What brought you to the Center for Basque Studies and UNR? 

I was here for 5 weeks conducting one part of my current Ph.D. research. I wish I could have stayed longer. I really appreciated my time there! My thesis project is entitled “Identity Configuration in the Contemporary Experimental Basque Theatre Scene” (“Configuración de la identidad en la escena experimental vasca actual”). It investigates performance practice in relation to identity and contemporaneity within the Basque Country’s community during the period between 2000 and 2015. The research, on the one hand, provides a foundation for the analysis and history of contemporary Basque theatre, and, at the same time, establishes a methodological framework that is responsive to the nature of these practices and the context in which they operate.

I came to the CBS mainly to meet Joseba Zulaika and to work with him on contrasting some conceptual aspects of my research, i. e. the anthropological perspective of “contemporaneity”, the anthropological approach to “identity” and to performance, and the contemporizing of tradition.

2. What is the goal of your research?

I aim to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in two ways: first, by offering a contextualized and analytic overview of the scenic reality of Basque Country in the 21st century. Bibliography on contemporary Basque theatre is scarce and there are no thoughtful studies on the analysis of experimental staging and the correlation between these stagings and the socio-cultural context in which they are produced. Secondly, I aim to contribute to the development of methodologies for interdisciplinary and artistic research by virtue of a procedural structure specifically created to adequate this vibrant subject. The strategy to achieve these goals consists of a multi-disciplinary methodology that conflates a historical base, a sociological/anthropological approach, an analysis of significant theatre works, and my own artistic practice created to, first, explore a staging of a specific identity, and, second, test the perception of this Identity and its staging among various audiences.

3. What makes your research unique?

The transdisciplinary methodological approach, which I am creating specifically for this project, attending to the particularities of the subject. And the subject itself, in my opinion, of course, is thought-provoking and exciting, since it deals both with past and present, and both with cultural and subjective identities.

4. What did you accomplish?

I wrote the first chapter of my dissertation here and I discussed it with Prof. Zulaika. He gave me good pieces of advice on how to continue my dissertation, on the specific issues that I could approach, some references… He encouraged me to follow my natural-previous inclinations and to put more of my professional experience as a performer within my dissertation. He was very helpful and very encouraging. I am thankful for that. I also found and read some books that will be very helpful for my work. It was good to meet other researchers who were temporarily staying here and share and interchange information with them. I got to reconnect with a former teacher of mine, Prof. De Pablo, and find out that one of his books can inform my dissertation. Besides, I gave a seminar about the theme of my research. I had to write in English an overall view of my advances, and that helped me realize how much I had already accomplished. Finally, I additionally had the chance to participate in a seminar about the current political situation in Catalonia. This is not related to my thesis project but it’s certainly of great interest to me, and it is very much related the questions of identity and performativity.

5. Did the Center for Basque Studies help you in any way?

Definitively. Everyone was kind and helpful, both in personal and academic matters. For instance, thanks to Iñaki Arrieta Baro, director of the library, I am now in contact with the Publication Service of UPV/EHU, which is interested in publishing my previous research essay; Edurne Arostegi helped me a lot by reviewing my English writing; Kate Camino is helping me try to bring my theatre work “Erbeste”, a research/creation done as part of my thesis project, to UNR next year, and Xabier is also willing to help with that; Shannon gave me great tips for my trip to San Francisco; Amaia did so too for our trip to Yosemite; Xabier offered his camp tent; he and Iñaki offered to drive me home or to the supermarket; we went out to have a drink a couple of times with Amaia and Edurne… They are all great companions and it was fantastic to meet them.

6. Did you enjoy U.S.? What about Reno!?

I did! I enjoyed my stay in here very much. I was lucky to have the chance to travel with some new friends I made (another two girls, María and Gemma, who were here with the art program/scholarship from University of Basque Country, and a “local” boy from Florida). We visited Lake Tahoe and climbed the Tallac Mountain. I loved it! It was a wonderful day, it was a tough climbing but we got to see gorgeous sights and places. We also made a four-day road trip to Yosemite Park and L.A. That trip was very casual, unorganized, and crazy fun!  Another weekend I went on my own to San Francisco. There, the beauty of the city and the kindness of its people overwhelmed me.

I believe Reno is a very nice and convenient place to study. It’s calm, sunny (which I appreciate very much) and well communicated. I mean, there are many interesting places to visit around. So you can easily take a weekend off to discover a new place. I was staying in a hostel downtown, just a 10-minute bike ride to the campus. So, it was very easy to get there and stay focused on the studies during the day. At that hostel, the Morris Burner, there is lively community activity so it was also very entertaining to be there in the evenings, we kept socializing, and it felt like ‘coming home’ every day after school.

7. What did you miss the most about the Basque Country?

I missed having a phone number with international calls and Internet access plan. It wasn’t always easy to stay communicated. Also, because of the time difference of 9 hours. I didn’t get the correct phone plan-tariff before I came, and once here, it wasn’t that easy. So, for the next ones coming: you might want to check that! Besides that, I don’t recall missing anything: I found nice food (vegetables, organic and whole grain products, good cheese…), I went to the mountain, I had dinner once at the Basque Corner, I saw the snow, I enjoyed the sun, I felt like in Gasteiz with the cold, I didn’t miss the rain, I biked and walked, I socialized, I drank some nice red wine, and I spoke more Euskara than I usually do in Barcelona!


San Francisco’s Athletic Club Bilbao Peña

About a month ago, 15 members of the Athletic Club Peña in San Francisco visited the San Mames to watch the leones against Barça. Part of the trip was in honor of their one year anniversary as a peña, or fan association. They spent a few more days in Bizkaia, even eating at the Baserri Maitea in Forua, managed by the former goalie, Zaldua.

The Peña has 87 members, 75 of which are American and the rest from the Basque Country. The Club invited the group to San Mames, watching from the VIP box, where they were treated “like family” by Urrutia. Even though the team lost, these loyal fans will always support the team.

To read more visit (in Spanish):

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