In June 22 Joseba Zulaika gave a talk in Itziar, his home town and the place of the ethnographic work for which he is best known, Basque Violence: Metaphor and Sacrament. Almost forty years ago, having concluded his fieldwork, Zulaika was asked to give a talk in Itziar and he said that this one, now that ETA is ended, felt like a repetition of that one—when he had to face his village neighbors and explain what he had “discovered” about the place.
Zulaika repeated his argument about the Homeric plot underlying “The Tragedy of Carlos”—the two “milk brothers” and close friends Martin and Carlos who later became political antagonists in the eyes of the community and when Carlos was killed by ETA Martin didn’t approve of it. Zulaika later applied the Homeric scheme to the painful history of ETA in Itziar—the plight of the hero who falls into a tragic error. The tragic error is really an error, yet it is the sort of error a good man would make. It is thus an act both free and conditioned. It is not forced upon him, but he makes it under conditions so adverse that we watch him with compassion. There could be many readings of Itziar’s events but Zulaika emphasized that, far beyond the current “terrorist” all encompassing discourse, only an ethnographic approach could make justice to the actual histories of the pople. Zulaika said that giving his talk in Itziar was unlike giving it anywhere else—because he was in the presence of the protagonists of his ethnography and this implied a “repetition” in the deeper sense that the presence of Martin and Carlos and the former ETA activists wasn’t just a memory of past events, but an affirmation of the present and future realities of Itziar in this post-ETA era.