Tag: Sandy Ott

The William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies 50th Anniversary

Photo credit: Josu Zubizarreta

During the darkest days, when we were denied our language, our culture and our identity, we were consoled by the knowledge that an American university in Nevada had lit one small candle in the night.

-Lehendakari Jose Antonio Ardanza, March 1988

Photo Credit: Iñaki Arrieta-Baro

Last week, on November 8, the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies celebrated its 50th anniversary with CBS faculty, students, and staff as well as countless members of the Basque community and supporters of the Center. Held at the Jon Bilbao Basque Library, the space was packed quickly. There was food and drink and a wonderful atmosphere. People reconnected with old friends and new ones at the lively event. Here’s some background on the CBS ‘s History and Mission:

History

Originally called the Basque Studies Program, the Center was created in 1967 as part of the Desert Research Institute at the University of Nevada, Reno. At that time, the DRI was creating new programs to reach various aspects of the Great Basin’s inhabitants and history. The idea for studying the Basques was proposed since Basque-Americans have long formed a prominent minortiy in the region and have contributed a great deal to its development. Bill Douglass served as the Program’s director from 1967-1999, when he retired to become Professor Emeritus in Basque Studies. The Basque Studies Program was renamed the Center for Basque Studies as a result of a program review conducted in 1999.

CBS Mission

The primary mission of the CBS is to conceive, facilitate, conduct, and disseminate the results of interdisciplinary research on the Basques to a local, regional, national, and internation audience, and by extension to draw attention to the human experience of small ethnic groups. The Center seeks to maintain excellence in all its endeavors and to achieve its goals through high quality research, publications, conferences, active involvement in scholarly networks throughout the world, as well as through service and teaching.

Channel 2 News was present and recorded a short news video on the event, available online. In it, they interview Xabier Irujo, the CBS director, and Dr. Sandy Ott, one of our professors. The video definitely captures the mood of the event.

Photo Credit: Iñaki Arrieta-Baro

President Johnson of UNR was given the word first, and he spoke of the history of the CBS and its impact on the UNR campus. He has taken a few trips to the Basque Country with the advisory council and genuinely enjoys our culture! Next up came William A. Douglass, our namesake and one of the founders of the CBS, as well as a pioneering researcher on Basques in the U.S. Douglass reflected on the center’s history and his own place within it. Dr. Irujo then spoke about both the CBS and Basque Studies in a global context, providing jokes and anecdotes. We were then honored by Jesus Goñi’s bertsoak celebrating the Center’s place in Basque history.

Photo Credit: Iñaki Arrieta-Baro

Photo Credit: Gemma Martín Valdanzo

Overall, it was a great event that gathered so many voices from the Basque community and academia. To 50 more years of the CBS!

 

 

 

 

 

WSFH 45th Annual Conference

The Western Society for French History’s 45th Annual Conference was held on November 2-4 here in Reno, sponsored by our very own Center for Basque Studies and the Santa Clara University History Department. Dr. Sandy Ott led the local arrangements committee with help from numerous members of the CBS staff and students, dedicating countless hours to the conference’s success. There were around 150 speakers and attendees to the 35 panels on diverse topics such as “Imperial Mobilities: Labor, Goods, and Technology between Colony and Metropole” and “Nazism, Neo-Nazism, and Exile the French Basque Country.” To check out the program, visit the WSFH website. I will include a brief description of the conference, however, provided by the society:

The forty-fifth annual conference of the Western Society for French History will be held from November 2-4 in Reno, Nevada. The theme for this year’s conference is “Diasporas, Displacements, and Migrations,” and engages with diverse human experiences of relocation, both forced and voluntary, and invites reflection on large-scale human displacements, both past and present, and the long-term consequences they generate. Our keynote speakers will be Tyler Stovall (University of California, Santa Cruz) and Annette Becker (Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense).

The University of Nevada, Reno is the home to the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies, which is co-sponsoring the conference. The conference will highlight the Basques and their vibrant culture, and participants will be able to sample Basque cuisine at the Friday business luncheon. The Basque experience reflects the conference theme, and our aim is to bring aspects of Basque culture to the program so that participants can appreciate the historic importance of the Basque people in the Great Basin Region of the American West.

This year the conference organizers are introducing a new format: a linked Conference Plenary Roundtable and Conference Workshop.  Following on last year’s excellent discussion at the roundtable “Crisis in French History?” we have planned the roundtable “Addressing Structural Racism in French History and French Historical Studies,” followed by a related workshop in which we hope colleagues can explore in more depth pedagogical questions raised by the roundtable discussion.  If you are interested in exploring strategies for engaging with questions of race in your classrooms, please plan to attend this inaugural Conference Workshop.

As co-sponsorers of the event, we had our own books out and of course, Dr. Ott’s new Living with the Enemy. We also had a collection of posters from the Jon Bilbao Basque Library on display, which really livened up the space.  Numerous questions were asked about the Basques at the registration desk. One professor, although raised in Brittany, had Basque ancestors who had made their way into France. Another had visited the area in the late 1960s, who recalled his travels with much enthusiasm. The attendees seemed genuinely interested in learning more and got the chance to have a Basque-style lunch too. Food is always the best way to learn about a culture!

Yesterday’s post outlines the panel on “Nazism, Neo-Nazism, and Exile in the French Basque Country” and the presentations by Aurélie Arcocha-Scarcia, Mari Jose Olaziregi, and our own Ziortza Gandarias. Dr. Zulaika’s comments resonated with the present and the past of the Basques. Overall, it was a great success.

On a personal note, I had the chance to reconnect with a professor of mine after 10 years. I had seen his name on the program, Dr. Jonathan Beecher, but couldn’t put a face to the name. The moment he walked up to the registration desk, I immediately recognized him. He was on a panel entitled “Flaubert, Marx, and 1848,” with Biliana Kassabova and Dominica Chang, chaired by Naomi Andrews and commented on by Mary Pickering. I had a chance to attend the panel, and as I had read both Flaubert and Marx in Dr. Beecher’s class, “19th Century European Intellectual History,” I was brought back to the days that I began my studies in History. Back then, my focus was on Modern Europe, Germany to be exact. How things have changed! I am now in my sixth year studying Basque migration! Attending that panel made me reflect on my path as a historian, and the many professors and books that have influenced my studies. In that regard, the WSFH conference was a wonderful opportunity to hear different scholars and re-energize my own studies.

Faculty News 2017: Sandy Ott

Cambridge University Press published Sandy Ott’s book, Living with the Enemy: German Occupation, Collaboration and Justice in the Western Pyrenees, 1940-1948. In his endorsement of the book, John Merriman (Yale) observes that “her ethnographic approach succeeds beautifully in describing and analyzing the relations between German occupiers and Basques in a place that in some significant ways stands apart from other regions in France. She brings to life the dramatic and complicated ‘hidden’ story of the German occupation…in the Basque Country.” Sandy also contributed to The Oxford Companion to Cheese (Oxford University Press). Sandy conducted further archival research on German POWs in the French Basque Country (1945-1948) and gave a paper on the topic at the annual conference of the Society for French Historical Studies in Washington, D.C. She also lectured at the University of Southampton (UK) on the intersections of anthropology and micro-history. In July, Sandy joined Advisory Board members in the Basque Country for their weeklong excursion. She also (unexpectedly) became interim chair of Communication Studies at UNR, alongside her regular duties in teaching, research and service in Basque Studies. She is also the local organizer of a major French history conference that takes place in Reno soon.

 

    

Carmelo Urza’s retirement covered in Nevada Today

Carmelo Urza, the founding director of the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) and great friend of the Center, recently announced his retirement, ending a tenure on August 31 that began way back in 1982. To mark this auspicious occasion Urza was interviewed for Nevada Today, providing news from the Communications Office about the University of Nevada, Reno.

Having been part of a program that brought students to the Basque Country in 1974, a trip that would serve as the later inspiration for USAC, Urza’s initial objective was to organize a more permanent program along similar lines, which led to the creation of USAC in 1982. In his own words, “My goal was to create a viable, ongoing program in the Basque Country.” But a year and a half into the new program he realized that it would have to expand to remain viable: “We simply needed more programs in order to achieve the necessary economies of scale, more efficient use of our scarce resources and an even broader recruiting base if we were to have a chance at succeeding.”

Urza recognizes, though, that without the help of Bill Douglass and the (then) Basque Studies Program as well as Pat Bieter, a professor at Boise State, the program would never have gotten off the ground, with both involving their respective universities in financing the program initially.

Another connection with the Center is that of our own Sandra Ott, another key figure in the early days of USAC:

“Sandy heroically put her shoulder to the proverbial wheel and made a success of the San Sebastian program … making it up as we went along,” Urza says. “In retrospect, I realize how little assistance she had in bringing the program to life. Sandy reached out to the locals, many of whom were eager to help and created extraordinary authentic experiences for participating students.”

And from these solid foundations USAC grew into the global phenomenon it is today.

Urza also speaks about his own Basque-American upbringing, growing up on a sheep ranch in southwestern Idaho, just off the Snake River, where he would go up into the Saw Tooth Mountains with a herder, camp-tender, and hand.

See the full story here.

From everyone at the Center, eskerrik asko Carmelo and enjoy your retirement!

 

Spring 2017 Basque Multidisciplinary Seminar Series

This semester, like almost every semester, the CBS is holding a Seminar Series. Here’s a round-up of the lectures given thus far and a sneak peak of the coming presentations!

Professor Douglass kicked off the series with his paper entitled “Basques in Cuba,” based on his research and the conference held in Havana in 2015 entitled “Euskal Herria Mugaz Gaindi.” Douglass shared many anecdotes and the audience responded with many questions, carrying on the discussion well after the hour had quickly gone by.

Next up, Saranda Frommold, a PhD candidate at the Freie Universität Berlin,  shared her dissertation findings on “The Political Relations between Mexico and Spain regarding Basque Exile to Mexico (1977-2000).” She has spent three weeks at the Center, continuing her research. The presentation was thought-provoking and also ended in a lively question and answer session. Stay tuned for our interview with Saranda. We will miss her at the CBS.

Last week, I presented a paper entitled “Memoirs of Mobility and Place: Portrayals of Basque-American Identity,” written for a literature class, so a little out of my historical comfort zone. I must say, it went well, and I was excited to recommend Mountain City, by Gregory Martin, to most of my audience. It’s definitely a good read! I compared Martin’s portrayal of Basque communities in the West to that in Sweet Promised Land, Robert Laxalt’s famed memoir.

Next week, March 29 from 12:30-1:30, our Basque Librarian, Iñaki Arrieta Baro, will be presenting on “Bertsolaritza: Kultur Artea Network.” This will be a nice addition to our showcase on Bertsolaritza. Be sure to come visit and see the exhibit!

April 5 is sure to be a busy lecture day. Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain, a PhD candidate here, will present on “Euzko-Gogoa: Gender and Nation,” as a part of her own dissertation research. Mikel Amuriza will then follow, giving a talk about tax systems. Mikel is a visiting scholar from the Diputación de Bizkaia, and will be with us for a few more months. We’ll be sure to post an interview soon!

Professor Ott will present on April 12, giving a talk on “German P.O.W.s in Post-War France,” part of her ongoing research on the topic. I’m sure it will be full of anecdotes and more!

Lastly, we have the pleasure to have Professor Boehm from the Anthropology department, as well as Women’s Studies and GRI, present on her recently published book. Her conference is entitled “Disappearance and Displacement in an Age of Deportation,” and I’m sure it will bring up many current events and a discussion of what is going on in the world around us.

Be sure to stop by from 12:30-1:30 on Wednesdays for our seminar series. Bring your own brown bag, sit back, and enjoy!

Professor Ott speaks on collaboration and resistance, and meets a resister, at the University of San Francisco

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Professor Sandy Ott speaks to a packed house at the University of San Francisco on World War II collaboration and resistance. Seated facing the crowd, in the red beret, is Odette M. Le Pendu, 93 years young, who at age 18 joined the French Resistance and also shared her memories.

On April 23rd, Sandy Ott gave a talk, “Living with the Enemy in Bearn: Collaboration and Resistance,”  at the University of San Francisco. Professor Karen Bouwer (French Studies at USF) extended the invitation to her. Jean Lassegues generously sponsored the event. M. Lassegues’s parents came from villages near Pau in Bearn, and he retains a lifelong interest in his heritage. The audience of some fifty people included USF students, as well as many French-speaking members of the public. One very special member of the audience was Mme. Odette M. Le Pendu, who is 93 years-old and as spry as ever. Odette was born in San Francisco to French parents from the Midi. In 1938, the family returned to France to help relatives with their business. At age 18, Odette joined the Resistance—and managed to keep it a secret from her parents for the duration of the Occupation. She served as a radio operator. At the end of Sandy’s talk Odette shared some of her memories of the Occupation with the audience. As a proud Officer of the Legion of Honor, Odette showed the audience the splendid medal she received at the Liberation in recognition of her wartime bravery and service to France.

In her talk Sandy focused on the wartime experiences of a Bearnais town hall secretary from Oloron and the Vichy police commissioner who established close relations with the SS captain responsible for German intelligence and security in that town. The narrative forms one chapter in Sandy’s forthcoming book, Living with the Enemy: Betrayal and Justice in the Western Pyrenees, 1940-1947, under contract with Cambridge University Press.

Readers interested in this period should also check out our War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, also edited by Sandy and which also treats many of these from a variety of perspectives.