Our faculty here at the CBS sure is an inspiration when it comes to work ethic, and Professor Ott is no exception. This semester, she has taught the “Basque Culture” capstone course to 38 undergraduates and two graduate students, myself included. This course really helps to spread awareness of the Basques throughout our campus community, and the students are both engaged by the material and also participate actively. Dr. Ott is also supervising her graduate student, Kerri Lesh, and coordinating an independent study course with her on the anthropology of food.
Stemming from her research interest in German POWs in postwar France, particularly the POW camp at Polo-Beyris in Baiona, Dr. Ott has been reading French sources on the POWs who were sent to Iparralde and neighboring Bearn from May 1945 onward, to work in local town halls, to clear German mines on the Basque coast, and to work on farms. She is interested in this episode of Franco-German relations in the postwar period, when many of these young Germans longed to escape across the Pyrenees into Spain and make their way back home. Next semester, she is planning to continue working on this research project, in preparation for archival research during the summer in both Pau and Baiona.
On top of these new interests, her manuscript, Living with the Enemy: German Occupation, Collaboration and Justice in the Western Pyrenees, 1940-1948, is now being proofread for publication by Cambridge University Press, which issued a contract for the book in November 2015. It is set to come out in 2017, in both paperback and cloth editions.
Professor Ott has also found the time to present and publish several papers during the past year. In November 2015, she presented a paper on “Creating a Realm of Memory for the ‘Swallows’ of Maule: Spanish Female Factory Workers in the Pyrenean Borderlands” in Chicago for the annual conference of the Western Society for French History.
In March, she talked about Basques in occupied France at the University of San Francisco, as well as presenting another paper, entitled “Double Think in Occupied and Liberated France: A Test Case from the Western Pyrenees,” for the annual conference of the Society for French Historical Studies in Nashville, at Vanderbilt University.
During the summer of 2016, to mark her 40th anniversary in the province of Xiberoa, Dr. Ott gave a public lecture in Maule on her early years of fieldwork in Santazi (1976-1977) and her current research interests (the trials of suspected collaborators in liberated Pau). More than eighty people attended the event, including three generations of one Santazi family and several people who had experienced the German occupation of Iparralde.
In September 2016, Oxford University’s journal, French History, published her article, “Cohabitation and Opportunistic Accommodation in Occupied France: A Test Case from the Western Pyrenees.” She also had the chance to spend a wonderful weekend with members of the Chino Basque community—thanks to Advisory Board member Mike Bidart—and presented her 1985 documentary film, “The Basques of Santazi,” at the Chino Basque Club, alongside the screening of Amama. The event was attended by more than 50 spectators.
Professor Ott with director Asier Altuna at the Chino Basque Club in September
In November 2016, Professor Ott’s presentation, “A Pro-Vichy Mayor and His Indiscreet Ladies: Cohabitation and Accommodation in a Basque Village under German Occupation,” was filmed for H-France in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for the annual conference of the Western Society for French History.
A view of Santazi
For those of you who have read Dr. Ott’s Circle of Mountains, an ethnography of a Basque sheepherding community in Santazi in the province of Xiberoa, you will appreciate the amount of fieldwork she carried out for the endeavor. Professor Ott has visited the community and her host families every year since 1976, as celebrated last summer. In October of this year, a terrible, rapid fire completely destroyed the farmhouse of her closest friends in Xiberoa, whom she had known for nearly forty years. Luckily the fire began in the evening and not in the middle of the night. Both family members and all livestock survived the blaze. The community and the province rallied behind the family in extraordinary ways that reflect core rural Basque values, especially mutual aid. Local people at once took food, clothing, and household items to the town hall for the family’s use. The community also opened a bank account for them to which many donations have been made. Local people also organized a kantaldi, or singing festival, for the family in a nearby village. The spirit of the lehen aizoa, first neighbors, endures!
Professor Ott is quite the inspiration for us all. We look forward to reading your new book and the fruits of your new endeavors.
For now, check out War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Dr. Ott: http://basquebooks.myshopify.com/collections/books-by-title/products/war-exile-justice-and-everyday-life-1936-1946