Haritz Azurmendi is a visiting scholar from the University of the Basque Country (EHU-UPV). Azurmendi gave an engaging lecture at the CBS Lecture Series late October, where he addressed Basque debates about nationalism from a historical and contemporary perspective. Tracing the evolution of Basque nationalist thought over 1968 to 2018, the lecture situated Basque discourse about identity and nationalism within the broader intellectual debates between the Modernist and Ethno-symbolic schools. To what extent, Azurmendi proposed, is Basque nationalism a product of the Enlightenment, of capitalism and of the general resurgence of nationalist movements in the 19th century? To what extent does the emergence of Basque nationalist symbols constitute a pattern of a Hobsbawmian “invention of tradition”? Alternatively, how do they draw on pre-modern ethnic memories? Azurmendi presented the evolution of Basque nationalism as a contested ideological terrain where left wing abertzalism, right wing bourgeois nationalism, Marxism and post-colonial discourses competed for diverse interpretations of the nation. He identified the initial phase of these developments as the First Renaissance that relied on the exaltation of the peasantry, traditionalism, folklore, and a certain romanticism of rural life. The Second Renaissance, in turn, drew from urban modernity, existentialist thought, and social poetry. Azurmendi discussed the fascinating debate among public intellectuals concerning the question of why, and to what end, is one to speak Basque, with arguments ranging from sentimental reasons to justice, the importance of choice, and the defense of local culture. Azurmendi concluded that in light of the current Catalan crisis and Spanish reactions to it, we must re-think Basque nationalism and its diverse appeal to discourses about the “post-national subject,” the right to decide, democratization, independence, and the role of the Basque language.
Haritz investigates the idea of the nation in Jose Azurmendi`s work as a PhD student in the department of Political Science at the University of the Basque Country (EHU-UPV). He is using the CBS library resources to finish his dissertation, which he will defend next summer. This is what he said about his stay in Reno: “I try to travel around at weekends. I have visited such must see places in the neighborhood as Lake Tahoe, Mount Rose, and I am planning to go to Lake Pyramid soon. I also enjoy historical visits to places like Virginia City. And, of course, I love meeting Basque Americans and hear their stories and memories!”
Haritz`s talk ended with a lively discussion among the faculty, students and visiting scholars of the Center for Basque Studies. Eskerrik asko Haritz!