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!
Last time we checked in on me, I was finishing up my first semester at UNR. During the spring, I went to the East Coast with Amaia Iraizoz, presenting at the Southern American Studies conference, as well as visiting with the diaspora in Washington D.C. and New York City. Later that month, I presented at the Northern Nevada Diversity Summit and gave a passionate speech for the Unity in Diversity event held by UNR’s GSA. My article, “Memoirs of Mobility and Place: Portrayals of Basque-American Identity in Literature of Nevada,” was published at the end of October by Eusko Ikaskuntza in the new book on Art and Diaspora.
After getting through the year at the CBS, I spent the summer working for the Center for Basque Studies Books, translating new entries for the upcoming edition of Basques in the United States. This semester, I’m still coordinating the blog as well as the seminar series, having lectured in September on “Basque Women in the West: Bringing Migrants out of the Shadows.” I have also been a guest lecturer in Dr. Vaczi’s classes and am TAing for Dr. Ott’s “Basque Culture” class, focusing on diaspora. UNR also piloted a new program for grad students, ACUE’s Effective Teaching Practices, and I got the chance to participate, finishing up the course this week.
Much of my time has also been spent organizing the WSFH conference with Dr. Ott. After having attended many conferences, I finally realized the work that goes into it, but it was well worth the effort. Speaking of conferences, I’m organizing my schedule for next year, which is looking hectic. However, Dr. Ott has given me the chance to teach “War, Occupation, and Memory” next semester, so I’m looking forward to teaching.
Time flies during doctoral studies, but I’m taking advantage of every moment I can get!
Eusko Ikaskuntza, the Basque Studies Society, has awarded Joan Mari Torrealdai the Manuel Lekuona Prize 2015.
Joan Mari is a researcher, bibliographer, and, above all, an euskaltzale, a promoter of the Basque language and culture.
Joan Mari Torrealdai (R) and Iñaki Dorronsoro, president of Eusko Ikaskuntza.
Unfortunately, some of these activities took him to prison. In 2003 the Spanish National court closed Egunkaria, the only daily newspaper in the Basque language at the time, linking it to ETA. Joan Mari, as chairman of the board of Egunkaria and one of its first sponsors, was arrested with nine other people. When in 2010 all of them were absolved, it was too late for the newspaper.
Joan Mari has been the director of Jakin, one of the main publications about Basque culture, on two occasions: 1967-1969 (when the Spaniard government closed the journal) and 1977-2014.
In Jakin and since 1977, Torrealdai publishes “Euskal liburugintza” (Basque book publishing), an annual analytic report about publishing in the Basque Country. In addition to bibliography, other topics in his research are the everyday use of the Basque language and the censorship suffered under Franco.
Nowadays, Joan Mari Torrealdai is an euskaltzain (an academician of the Basque language) and head librarian at Euskaltzaindia, the Academy of the Basque language.
For more on the Basque language, see the following CBS publications:
The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country
The Dialects of Basque
Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture