Tag: Nationalism

From the backlist: Empire and Terror

In April 2002 the Center hosted a conference titled “Nationalism, Globalization, and Terror: A Debate on Stateless Nations, Particularism/Universalism, and Radical Democracy.” The conference was ambitious in scope, attracting globally renowned scholars; opportune in timing, coming as it did in the wake of the then relatively recent events of 9/11; and prescient in its findings in light of later international developments.

The Center subsequently published a book that included papers delivered at the conference. Titled Empire & Terror: Nationalism/Postnationalism in the New Millennium and edited by Begoña Aretxaga, Dennis Dworkin, Joseba Gabilondo, and Joseba Zulaika, we think this is a work well worth revisiting some fifteen years after it was first published.

Specifically, the issues is discusses–the nature of democracy and capitalism, the challenge of stateless nations to the established political order, and the rise of international terrorism–are as important today as they were back at the turn of the millennium, indeed arguably even more so. In broad terms, the book addresses the themes of nationalism, globalization, terrorism, democracy, and culture.

Quoting at length some passages from the introduction:

We do not see the concrete and specific cases discussed here in merely particularistic and exceptional terms. Rather we think of them as providing specific political contexts in which are dramatized crucial questions about contemporary relations of power, sovereignty, statehood, ideology, and fantasy. We see them as sites of psychic investments in the particular that nonetheless have implications for the universal dimension. Particularistic claims, such as self-determination, ultimately appeal to universal principles. Moreover, specific interests, if they are not to be merely relational or differential, invariably end up in conflict with other such interests, mediated by a field of power relations that is structured by forms of dominance, subordination, and exclusion . . .

A genuinely democratic society permanently shows the contingency of its foundations, the gap between the ethical moment and the normative order. Critical in this context are antagonisms, which have no objective meaning and which produce empty signifiers with no necessary attachment to any precise content. While authority attempts to establish an objective order of social relationships, it is subverted by antagonisms that lack a definitive ground. At the level of political subjectivity, historical analysis shows that oppositional identities are simultaneously antagonistic to and dependent on the status quo from which their opposition and hence identity is derived. Issues pertaining to antagonism and oppositional identities repose at the center of our reflections . . .

As scholars, we are concerned with issues of particularism/universalism and democracy. The spiraling circle of violence and the narrowing scope of the discussion about it likewise preoccupy us. We see this volume as a contribution to expanding that debate beyond the idea that terrorism is intrinsically evil and therefore can only be condemned, or the notion that it is part of an inevitable clash of civilizations. Situating terrorism within different historical contexts and analyzing how it functions as a stimulus for discourse are the preconditions for opening up that discussion beyond today’s stultifying polarities.

Empire & Terror is available free to download here.


A busy summer for Joseba Zulaika

The Center’s Joseba Zulaika has had a busy summer already! On June 16, he presented a paper at the symposium Law and Image II: Representing the Nation-State, at Birkbeck, University of London. Zulaika’s talk was titled “Images, Fantasy, and the Law: The Limits of the Nation-State and the Manufacturing of Terror.”

He then took part in a conference organized through the University of the Basque Country summer school. Held June 29-July 1 and titled “On Twenty-first Century Nationalism,” the conference attempted to answer some of the questions surrounding the meaning of nationalism in general, and Basque nationalism in particular, in the age of globalization and political and economic integration. Zulaika gave a presentation titled “From the Big World to the Small World and Back Again.” See a video of the presentation here.

What’s more, Zulaika also recently published an interesting online article, “A Tale of Two Museums,” for the journal Anthropology News.  In the article Zulaika explores the central role played by two museums–San Telmo in Donostia-San Sebastián and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao–in rethinking the Basque Country in the twenty-first century. Read the full article here.

Check out another Basque-themed article in the same journal, this time on the topic of Basque food: “A Taste of the Basque Country,” by Nikki Gorrell from the College of Western Idaho, discusses the importance of the pintxo or Basque finger-food in Basque culture as a whole. Check out the full article here.


Flashback Friday: The Triple Alliance

On September 11, 1923, the so-called Triple Alliance was formed between Basque, Catalan, and Galician nationalists when they signed an agreement in the city of Barcelona (Catalonia). Signed on the same date commemorating the fall of Barcelona to Spanish Bourbon forces in 1714 under the reign of Felipe V (which then became the national day of Catalonia), the Basques, Catalans, and Galicians agreed on a goal of the liberation of the three historical territories and demanded of the Spanish government their full rights as sovereign nations. However, Spanish unionists and conservatives reacted harshly to this nationalist movement. Two days later, on September 13, military officer Miguel Primo de Rivera carried out a coup d’état and imposed a dictatorship in Spain that lasted until 1930, when he resigned his position.


The emblem of the alliance between the Basques, Galicians, and Catalans

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.


Visiting scholar Aritz Farwell at the Center for Basque Studies

What brings you to CBS?

I am completing a doctoral thesis on the political, social, and cultural perspectives that existed about Basque at the start of the twentieth century.


What is the goal of the project?

The primary goal is to discover what the discourses surrounding Basque were like at the time and to see if they were common across many different sorts of texts and contexts.  For example, did what was said about Basque in a political context translate into what was said about it in a zarzuela?  A secondary, future goal, will be to compare the perspectives on Basque of this era to those that came later.


Is the research unique?

Parts of the story are well known.  The early nationalists’ relationship with Basque, for instance, is a subject included in the thesis that has received a good deal of attention.  Other areas are more obscure.  An example of something that has garnered less scrutiny, perhaps, are the practical and ideological reasons behind why Basque was required for certain local government positions at the turn of the century.  But one of the more unique aspects of the research is the approach, which encompasses a more synchronic rather than diachronic sweep of how Basque was understood.  The result of casting a wide net over a shorter period of time is a fairly detailed account of how Basque was perceived, which makes it possible to see that similar themes were attached to the language, and the people that spoke it, across texts of a diverse nature.


What have you completed since arriving?

A good deal—essentially the final section of the thesis, which focuses on Basque in the cultural sphere, which is to say its presence in literature, plays, music, bertso, etc.  The library and the Center are great places to work and everybody here has been very helpful.


Are you enjoying the US?

Very much so.  Being American, visiting Reno is a homecoming of sorts.  But I didn’t know the city or the region and it has been a pleasure exploring another part of the US with my family and the friends I’ve met here.  I hope I’ll have another opportunity to visit again in the future sometime!

Flashback Friday: A Carlist Legacy

On July 31, 1895, the Basque Nationalist Party was officially founded by Sabino Arana Goiri, his brother Luis, and some sympathizers in the city of Bilbao (Bizkaia). This party was a political force against the repercussions of the structural changes that the Basque Country witnessed in the late nineteenth century. The Basque Nationalist Party defended its old territorial rights and laws, as well as Catholic doctrines, traditions, and customs. An anti-Spanish ideology was the main characteristic of the Basque Nationalist Party. It reacted to the liberal and socialist political movements that were much in vogue during those days in Basque industrial centers, like Bilbao. Sabino Arana, as the main theorist, was named president of the newly created party, a position he held until 1903, just before he died. Arana, who was a former Carlist himself, considered “race” the main element of the Basque national identity over the language.


Portrait of Sabino Arana Goiri (1865-1903)


The Basque Nationalist Party’s headquarters in Bilbao (Bizkaia) at the turn of the century

To read more about the origins of Basque nationalism, check out Javier Corcuera’s The Origins, Ideology, and Organization of Basque Nationalism, 1876-1903.

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day