Political Landscapes – Barcelona

SpainMy previous posts have been following the trajectories of the waves of social protest in Spain and Barcelona that continue to generate a massive media interest and public response. On June 19th, thousands of protesters gathered in the Placa Catalunya to demand greater fiscal and informational transparency of all levels of government. In Barcelona, the city continues to press charges against protesters who harassed politicians entering Parliament, and Interior representative Felip Puig has reasserted the illegality of the continued presence of protesters’ encampments in the Plaza Catalunya. The protesters, for their part, have reaffirmed their commitment to remaining in the square until their business is finished. However on certain fronts politicians are acutely aware of and responding to protesters’ demands—PSOE, the Spanish socialist party, has supported and plans to review and investigate all of the protesters’ proposals. The government in Madrid has also made overtures, and on June 23rd delegates from M-15 and politicians participated in a joint assembly, debating issues of concern to the protesters. Many municipal officials have also publicly announced cuts or freezes to their own salaries.

The importance of the actions of politicians, and those of bureaucrats to the formation of Catalan, and as others have argued, European, identity is significant (Shore 1999).Barcelona, and the landscape of the city itself—its construction and transformation into a global destination—is woven with the images, streets, plazas, statues dedicated to the social architects of Catalunya. The photo above shows the Plaza Francesc Macià, in Gràcia near the center of the city. Macià (1859-1933) founded political party Estat Català and the later Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, and became the president of the Generalitat of Catalunya in 1932 before his death the following year. Macià was also very active in the direction of the armed forces of Catalunya, as a colonel before leaving the military around the turn of the century.

I had an opportunity to see old military barracks, during a visit to the law faculty of the University Pompeu Fabra. Located near the old Olympic Village, near the port, one or two of the buildings remain in their original conditions; five or six story buildings with pale pink stucco and wrought iron fences and lined, front and back with tall, imposing wooden doors opening onto long balconies stretching the length of the building. The law faculty is situated in an incredibly renovated building, designed by the Barcelona firm MBM Architects, that also was at one time a military barrack. It is has a massive atrium with an indoor brick plaza around which are located classrooms and offices. The university was only founded in 1990, and NYU, as an urban institution, was one of its inspirations. I have another meeting there this coming week.

I also had the opportunity to attend the Council for European Studies (CES) annual conference, held at the Barcelona Institute for International Affairs (IBEI) and the Institut Ramon Llull. As a CES fellow, it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet both members and administrators of the organization that has, along with CLACS, enabled my work this summer. I attended panels on integration and migration, place and affect, the sociology of upper classes, language and politics, and histories of colonialism and religious missions in Italy and Spain. I  also volunteered at the International Association of Mental Forensic Health Professionals (IAMFHS) annual conference, and had the opportunity to talk to different clinicians, scholars and administrators working at the intersection of medicine, law, and political science.

Shore, C. 1999. “The invention of homo europaeus: the cultural politics of european integration. Etnologia Europea. 29(2): 53-6

Posted by Johanna Lenkner – PhD Student in Anthropology at NYU

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