An age of consumer nationalism?

February 4, 2017 Comments Off on An age of consumer nationalism?

hamburguesaWalls planned by ‘America First’ President of the United States; the Brexit progression to ‘Make Britain Great Again’; a growing cross-European populism trying to keep the national-order-of-things; multinational states under reinforced claims for self-determination; increasing tension around the Russian borders to recover a global influence; serious dispute for tiny islands’ between China and Japan… There is no doubt that we are facing a new wave of conflicts fueled by nationalists motivations.

Like in other moments of history, this nationalism has economic consequences. But today, nationalism is not merely expressed in the already known ‘economic nationalism’ attached to old practices like taxing foreign products or protecting the national labour market, and so on. National tensions have also consequences on a wide range of comercial and consumer daily basis practices. Therefore, there are very different, sophisticated or sometimes banalized, forms of what we know as consumer nationalism: a wide range of consumer practices and discourses attached to motivations grounded on nationalism. Are we perhaps living in an age of consumer nationalism?

Jointly with Sabina Mihelj, we have published an article in which we try to better define this phenomenon and to distinguish different types of consumer nationalism. The article has been published by the Journal of Consumer Culture:

Enric Castelló & Sabina Mihelj

In recent years, nations have regained prominence as central symbols of political unity and mobilization, and proved capable of serving political goals across the political spectrum. Yet, the current revival of the national extends well beyond the realm of politics; it is anchored in the logic of global capitalism, and has become inextricably intertwined with the practices of promotion and consumption. Our article seeks to map the interface between nationalism and economic life, and bring some clarity to the so far fragmented debate on the topic, which developed under diverse headings such as ‘economic nationalism’, ‘nation branding’, ‘consumer ethnocentrism’ and ‘commercial nationalism’. We focus more closely on developing the concept of consumer nationalism, which received little sustained attention in cultural studies and in social sciences and humanities more generally. We offer a definition of consumer nationalism, situate it vis-a-vis the broader phenomena of economic nationalism and political consumerism, and propose an analytical distinction between political consumer nationalism and symbolic consumer nationalism. Drawing on existing literature we then consider a range of examples and examine how these two forms of consumer nationalism become involved in the reproduction of nationalism, taking into account both consciously nationalist discourses and practices as well as the more banal, everyday forms of nationalism.

A Bright Transitional Model to Democracy or a Story of Political Resigns and Subjugations

November 20, 2016 Comments Off on A Bright Transitional Model to Democracy or a Story of Political Resigns and Subjugations

This weekend the Spanish Transition to democracy was in the media agenda again because revealed  images by La Sexta Columna on an interview to Adolfo Suárez in 1995. In the document the former President admits that, after the dictatorship, the Spanish Government discarded a referendum to ask the Spaniards whether they preferred a monarchy or a republic. Suárez commented they had polls pointing that the monarchy option would have lost. Thus, they opted to include the Monarchy and the King as Head of the State as something already given. Of course, the status quo was implicitly accepted when the current Constitution in 1978.

These new revelations are fostering the discussion about what did la Transición really mean in the recent history of the country. The ‘official’ and hegemonic narrative of the period is about a bright model from dictatorship to democracy. This story was clearly present in mainstream media. But it is also true that there are many alternative stories about the period and not all media accounts offered such a brilliant account.

Among these other stories, Basque and Catalan media did elaborate a much more complex narrative in which we also find political resigns and subjugations. One of the crucial episodes of la Transición was the ‘failed’ coup d’état in 1981, because it was explained as the moment when the country would never go back to the ‘black Spain’. I  recently wrote a paper for the CICOM Congress 2015 about some of the documentaries that explained 23-F in the Basque and Catalan television and how they elaborated a different story on the event. These narratives must be read interwoven with other media accounts on that historical period, like the now published.

Following, the abstract and a link to the file:

A Fragmented Democratic Transition. Alternative Narratives on 23-F in Basque and Catalan TV Documentaries

Enric Castelló, Universitat Rovira i Virgili

 Abstract: The coup d’état of 23 February, 1981, remains in the memory of Spaniards as one of the epic episodes of democracy. This article analyses how the Basque public television (ETB) and Catalan Television (TVC) contributed to the account of 23-F. By analysing major reports produced and broadcast by both public corporations at different moments, the author notes a disagreement with the hegemonic discourse that lies in the national conflict and the political interpretation of the democratic transition in Spain. The leading Spanish story spoke of the coup as an “attempt” or a “failure” and of the Transition as a “success”, a political model that other transitions to democracy could do well to copy; the contested narratives in these documentaries spoke of an unfinished model based on denials and limitations in which 23-F is a climax and a turning point after which Spain developed a democracy at the cost of political sacrifices.

 Keywords: 23-F coup d’état; democratic transition; hegemonic narrative; historical memory; television documentary

Suggested citation

Castelló, Enric (2016) “A Fragmented Democratic Transition. Alternative Narratives on 23-F in Basque and Catalan TV Documentaries”. Actas del Congreso CICOM 2015 sobre Televisiones Autonómicas. Pamplona. Spain.

Access to pdf

Foresight and talent engagement: strategies at the network

October 16, 2016 § Leave a comment

The Master in Strategic Communication 2016-17 at URV started talking about on-line marketing on the social networks. Added to the focus on political, institutional and political communication, we are consistently working in the fields of on-line communication and social media. There is a  path to walk on this and teachers and students believe that there are true professional opportunities to cover. Most of the businesses and institutions around our region are lacking of a convincing on-line strategy. Sometimes, this deficit is mistakenly covered by an internship holder, too often poorly trained at the organization, who is “taking care of our Facebook and Twitter”.

img_3080Added to this, we assist to the proliferation of courses and even masters for “community managers”. Does it make sense to instruct someone in “community managing” like a specialization or something detached from the overall communication strategy of an organization, a corporation, a political party? My impression is that the “lucky” label is attracting more attention than the deserved. Community managing should be embedded in a global communication strategy which takes in account who we are, what we are looking for, and how are we going to achieve it. Thus, our communication plan, our reputation strategy, our CRM, etc. must take in account at any moment our action at social networks. Consistently to this, we should not treat the networks isolated, as something particularly special, but any communication strategy should include them in the analysis and management.

The conference delivered by Juan A. Robles, co-founder and VP Customer Success at Adsmurai, was really engaging and highlighted several issues that made me think about how on-line communication companies are trying to adapt to the uncertainty and speed demanded by the networks. I printed two keywords in my mind: talent and adaptation (which implies foresight). Talent! Yes, unfortunately one of the more battered aspects in our business culture. Talent is undervalued, and underpaid. Taking care of our most valuable workers is fundamental, specially for an effective strategy at the networks: fastest on-line processes, reaction abilities, and foresighting followers’ response do need talented professionals. And adaptation! That is our capacity to change and requires a constant reviewing of our plans and well-informed and continuous diagnosis.

The added value of future professionals will not be in knowing where the share button is or how to launch the next photo gallery, but to adequately manage all communication tools and platforms (which today are networked) as true strategists. For this, a master is much more meaninful.

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Pictures taken by Helle Kettner

Posmemory on the Spanish Civil War: a seminar

June 10, 2016 § Leave a comment

imatge seminari

This was a great week at the Department of Communication Studies in Tarragona (Universitat Rovira i Virgili). June 9th we celebrated a seminar on posmemory on the Spanish Civil War in which I had the opportunity to talk about television representations of trauma and counter-hegemonic narratives on the war and the dictatorship repression. It was a very participative meeting, among others, with an interesting speech by Carlota Coronado on film and historical memory on the war.

This topic has focused the attention of the Catalan Journal of Communication and Cultural Studies, that published the issue 8.1 devoted to “The Spanish Civil War 80 Years On. Discourse, Memory and the Media”. All in all I feel that the department is getting a great achievement, and thanks to the project leaded by Laia Quílez we have done a great job on the issue in a very relevant moment.

In this issue I had the opportunity to contribute with an article jointly with my colleague Maria José Romano and focused on the Catalan TV documentary “Perseguits i salvats”, a story on the resistance movement to save Jewish people who escaped from the occupied France during the Second World War. This is the abstract:

Wind on the fog: A reflection on the policy of historical memory at Televisió de Catalunya through the documentary Perseguits i salvats

By Enric Castelló and Maria José Romano

Identity and collective memory are two sides of the same coin: both are constructed from a narrative of community that may either define the present (identity) or explain the past (memory). These constructs also feed into one another, since memory is built through a consciousness of identity, while identity is the product of our capacity to create and retain a narrative that explains who we are today. This article offers a reflection on the policy of historical memory adopted by the Catalan public broadcasting network Televisió de Catalunya (TVC) and a detailed study of the documentary Perseguits i salvats. Camins de nit i boira/Persecuted and Saved. Paths through the Night and Fog (Solé, 2014). The authors identify the elements that place the documentary within this policy framework, examining its discourse and finding in it three primary goals: to situate the memory of the Catalan people in the context of European memory; to convey the repression of the Spanish Civil War and the ensuing dictatorship to an international audience; and to bear witness to the responsibility of the Franco regime in the events of the Holocaust and the Nazi atrocities.

 

 

 

The fragmented Transition: postmemory and TV

November 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

DSC_0305This week I was presenting a paper at the International Congress of Communication in Pamplona. Organized by the University of Navarra, this was the 30th edition of the meeting, and it was devoted to the regional public channels in Spain. I was presenting a paper entitled ‘La transición fragmentada. Contrahegemonías vasca y catalana en los relatos televisivos del 23F’ / The fragmented Transition. Basque and Catalan counter-hegemonies on 23F TV stories’. I have been researching on the TV documentaries of the regional Catalan and Basque public TV since the eighties.

This is from the abstract:

“In particular, the counter-narrative of these televisions questioned the consideration that the coup was an attempt completely failed, and suggested political gains in the territorial reconfiguration of Spain, as well as the demarcation of red lines in the political debate. From the analysis and in-depth reading of six major documentaries on both channels, the author distinguishes the differences between the Basque and Catalan narrative. The text argues that the explanation of the dissent in the Basque Country and Catalonia is in relation of the national conflict: so for the dominant story the Transition was a success and a model to follow, meanwhile for the counter-hegemonic discourse it was an unfinished process with renounces and limitation for democracy”.

It was quite a lateral communication in a congress mainly focused on the political economy of television, regulation and new technology platforms. Despite this, the whole experience was very interesting and I was able to deliver a contribution in the framework of the research project on post-memory in which I am collaborating.

Wine, communication and culture

October 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, I was speaking at the inaugural session of the Master on Strategic Communication at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, a program that I am coordinating this year. It was a really nice event in which we had the occasion to listen Jordi Suàrez on a conference entitled ‘Communication, wine and territory. The case of DOQ Priorat’.

DSC_0048_okSuárez explained us about the identity of the DOQ Priorat, the association of around 600 wine producers in one tiny area of Catalonia, very steep and difficult to cultivate. The communication strategy is constructed around a storytelling starting in the Middle Ages in the old monastery of Scala Dei, in the heart of the region. One of the mottos of Priorat product is “Heroic wine”, and it is very much accented by the soils of licorella, a slate rock that covers the whole area.

DSC_0094_okHe also explained about the events, the fairs and the tasting sessions for specialized journalists and sommeliers from around the world. We learnt about the importance of producing labels like ‘wines of vila’ and ‘wines of finca’, that arouse the curiosity of some specialized reviews and international forums. All in all, it was a great moment ended with a short taste of Onix, one of my favorite wines by Priorat DOQ.

This year of our Master in Strategic Communication is very promising. We have students from Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, China, Georgia, Russia and Venezuela. It is a very active group of future communication experts that we are proud to train.

Framing the Scottish Referendum, one year after

September 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

One year after I was at the University of Stirling to participate in a seminar about ‘Television framing of the Scottish Referendum’. Jointly with Marta Montagut, we presented a paper on how Catalan media (newspapers and television) covered the consultation. It was a very interesting meeting, with very well selected contributions that turned into a vivid discussion among around fifty assistants. The conference was excellently organized by Marina Dekavalla, one of the scholars working on this issue for years and with a wide knowledge on the topic. Claes de Vreese, one of the best experts on framing, opened the sessions with a very comprehensive explanation about how frames work in constructing political meanings through communication processes.IMG_20150918_093918

There were journalists, BBC staff and scholars from five or six British universities. Of course, most of the discussing focus was on the BBC coverage of the Referendum, and on the impartiality or the supposed bias during the campaign. But the audience was really interested in the Catalan process and about how Scottish politics does influence in the day-to-day political debate in Catalonia. All eyes put on next 27S, my overall impression was that Scottish academics and journalists do expect to see a democratic solution for the Catalan political conflict.

Following, an abstract on the contribution, which was very much appreciated by the audience.

Framing the Scottish Referendum, Seminar 18 September 2015, University of Stirling, Scotland.

The referendum and the Scottish constitutional issue in Catalan media. Representations, Metaphors and Frames

Enric Castelló and Marta Montagut
Universitat Rovira i Virgili

The Catalan media displayed a huge coverage of the Scottish referendum, with special programs, correspondents and analysts, who reported the complexity of the country and offered a myriad of representations of the Scottish and British politics. The day before the celebration of the Scottish referendum, the Spanish president Mariano Rajoy considered in the Congress that such processes were “torpedoes in the waterline of the European spirit,” while after the result, the Catalan President Artur Mas interpreted the process as a true “lesson of democracy” and the “only way to solve conflicts.” The reports and opinions established a set of frames, loaded with metaphors and representations of the country. The most common to explain the British constitutional conflict and the referendum were “the path”, “the marriage”, “the lesson”, “the battle” and “the “party”. Overall, the Catalan media represented David Cameron as a true democrat, despite risky and tactical; a leader that allowed what the Spanish state does not for Catalonia. Alex Salmond appeared as a smart and populist leader, who had led his country to vote. Following the results, the Catalan media also interpreted the victory of the “No” as a victory for democracy.
Ara, La Vanguardia newspapers and public television TVC offered news pieces on the country’s history and its relationship with England. The performances of Scottish stereotypes (the tartanry) were rather limited; although they had some presence reports and analyses tried not to fall into a box of topics. The interpretative frames were drawn considering to which extend Scottish and Catalan realities could be or not a mirror. For the Spanish unionist discourse, “Scotland is not Catalonia”, while Catalan independence argument point was that “Spain is not the UK”. The discourse on both sides tended therefore to present a narrative of the disparity.
In this contribution, the authors offer an analysis of representations, metaphors and dominant frames in the Catalan media during week of the referendum. After conducting a close reading of reports in the main dailies and public television and two of the most important Catalan daily, the authors conclude that journalism built a story about how to tackle the conflict between the Spanish state and the Catalan claim for a referendum, criticising the impossibility to reply this democratic event in the home country.

Note: This contribution is part of the project “The role of metaphor in the definition and social perception of conflict. Institutions, media and citizens” (CSO2013-41661-P), with the support by the Spanish Department of Economic Affairs and Competitiveness.