Q: What brought you back to UNR and what was your role within the conference?
A: I was attending the conference on “Exploring Diversity and Equity in Education” organized by the Cultural Diversity Committee at UNR, which gave me the opportunity to share some thoughts on the actual panorama on education and the American Education System, and also give a brief but interesting perspective on my personal experience teaching Basque Language and Culture, as something directly related to the main topic of the conference. I explored the ideas of “difference” and “diversity” as complementing but sometimes contradictory terms, when it comes down to applying them with our students and their cultural backgrounds. For example, for me it’s very interesting how, if you find the right stimulus, American students with no previous knowledge on Basque stuff are hooked and even think about visiting the Basque Country to include it as a part of their educational programs/requirements. This proves that diversity, in this global era, is like fresh air when we are educating these kids.
And of course, I took the opportunity of being back in Reno to visit my beloved CBS, see old friends and meet the new students. I was delighted with the welcome this old folks offered and happily surprised with the new incorporations! (Nothing beats being surrounded by this crazy Basque people again!) I truly think that there is a very interesting group now of different ages and cultural backgrounds that will definitely help in the development of the dissertations. Sometimes, there is no better ground for cultural studies than diverse positions that will offer multiple perspectives on the same topic.
Q: What is your current position at the University of Santa Barbara and what classes are you looking forward to teaching? How are your students? What do you enjoy about your position?
A: I currently hold the Basque Lecturer position in the Spanish and Portuguese Department, at UCSB, this position is sponsored by Etxepare Institute. I have been teaching Basque Language (101, 102), Basque Culture and Basque Cinema so far. I will be teaching first time ever a course on Culinary Arts and Identity this coming quarter, with some visiting Scholars and a Chef we will bring from the Basque Country, so the students will have the opportunity to taste all the knowledge we will be bringing to them during the quarter. This is something nobody has tried to do yet, so it is a kind of exciting experiment, full of risks and uncertainties, but I willing to take the challenge!
I am really happy with my students! They show lots of implication (one course on Culture ended up having a popular potluck!), although the topic is completely new for almost all of them, they discover literally a new universe and they really enjoy our tradition, history and specially how all this can be related to strong debates on identity and culture. They see that every single tradition can be thought within theoretical frames that help to understand how deep and complex these topics can be.
And about teaching, definitely, the best part of this job is when I finish the class, pack everything and while I walk through the corridor I have the feeling of having done something good for these kids. It’s a very simple feeling and it’s a feeling that only lasts probably few seconds, but it’s a great feeling indeed!
Q: Can you tell us about the conference in Portugal and what you presented on?
A: I was attending this conference on Political Violence in the XX Century, organized by Universidad Nova de Lisboa. The conference was interesting enough to revisit some of the well-known topics on violence, dictatorship, repression, and so on. I tried to push the boundaries a little bit, and prepared a communication on how Fernando Pessoa is inaugurating a new era in terms of Western´s thought tradition, literally placing these debates on political violence somewhere further than the actual perspectives, and somehow linking it to the concept of change (a topic that I worked on my dissertation). It was funny to go to Lisbon to talk about Pessoa, since he is one of the most famous and studied figures they have- I enjoyed doing it! This is a research I need to work on yet, but there are definitely some connections in the thought of Pessoa and Joseba Sarrionandia. This is an idea for possible upcoming research.