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16th Colloquium of the North American Catalan Society

Keynote Speakers

This year we are pleased to have professors Sebastiaan Faber and Jaume Subirana present keynote lectures.

Sebastiaan Faber
Professor and Chair of Hispanic Studies- Oberlin College

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“Memory Battles of the Civil War: Catalan Lessons for Spain”

Spain has had serious trouble processing the long legacy of the Civil War and the Franco dictatorship. Still today, political battles rage over the enforcement of the “Law of Historical Memory,” passed in December 2007, which aimed to purge the country’s public spaces from symbols that exalt the Franco forces and dictatorship. But the country’s established historians, too, have had a difficult time situating themselves vis-à-vis the grassroots “memory movement” that sprang up around the turn of the millennium, which, in its thorough critique of the Transition, helped lay the groundwork for what would later become the 15-M movement.
The bulk of Spain’s political and academic establishment has reacted rather rigidly and aggressively to anyone who has dared to question its authority and legitimacy, the foundations of what has come to be known as the “regime of 1978,” or, for that matter, Spain’s political structures as defined in the 1978 Constitution. In defense of a status quo defined in terms of an exclusive “normality” (as Elena Delgado has shown), academics, intellectuals, and politicians have had to resort to arguments, narratives and epithets of doubtful intellectual caliber. These include as the distinction between “history” and “memory” or between a “normal” Spanish nationalism and other, “secessionist” or “anti-constitutionalist” forms of nationalism.
In this talk, I plan to critically explore the way in which the historical memory of the Civil War and the dictatorship has been processed in Catalonia —at the level of government, university, and civil society—in order to bring out important differences with the processes that have dominated the “memory battles” in Spain. By way of a recent and compelling example, I will focus specifically on the work in this regard proposed and developed by Barcelona en Comú since it took over the city government of Barcelona in 2015. While not brushing over contradictions and tensions in the Catalan approach to historical memory, overall I will argue that if there is any reason to speak in terms of normalcy and aberration, the normalcy is to be found in Catalonia rather than in Spain.


Jaume Subirana
Writer, Professor - Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

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“Building with Words: The Symbolic Space of Writers in Contemporary Catalan Culture”

Catalan philology already has a good number of histories of its literature, from the early works of Pers i Ramona (1857) or Cambouliu (1910) to the Riquer-Comas-Molas Història de la literatura catalana (1964/1986), as well as a fair number of tomes that give a decent overview of the topic (Fuster 1971, Terry 1977, Carbonell et al. 1979, Casals 1980, Bordons & Subirana, 1999). However, it suffers from a lack of the thematic studies that have appeared in other cultures and languages over recent decades. In Catalan there are no works that give specific authors the clear protagonism given to them in De Sanctis’s Storia della letteratura italiana (1983), for example, nor any that ‘thematize’ the story of literature itself, such as in Stegagno Pichio’s Storia della letteratura brasiliana (1997). On the other hand, the more historicist approach of the majority of what is taught and published in Catalan Studies doesn’t quite incorporate many of the lessons of comparative literature: Edward Said, Pierre Nora or Pierre Bourdieu are all read and translated, but their ideas on subordinated cultures and literatures, on places of memory and immaterial heritage, or on cultural fields and agents are largely yet to be applied to the Catalan “case”, documenting, relating and explaining the role of the various agents (authors, publishers, scholars, the public, critics or translators) in the Catalan literature system and the space and role this plays within the wider Catalan culture.