Overcoming a challenge: a companion to Iberian Studies

April 12, 2017 Comments Off on Overcoming a challenge: a companion to Iberian Studies

C8rX0FzXkAAJIc0It takes a time to collect and edit a volume like The Routledge Companion to Iberian Studies recently published and now available. Like other compilations which aim is to offer a broad landscape on the late advances on a single field or academic issue, this is a monumental book to which I have had the honour to contribute to with an article on TV documentaries on the Spanish Civil War and the mediatization of collective memory.

The companion offers fifty articles on history, politics, cultural studies, literature and visual arts that include cultural production from medieval ages to the twentieth century. Approaches to this diverse list of objects of study are also rich and imply a true panoptic view on Hispanism and Iberian Studies. The companion also brings together a good mixture of well-known and senior scholars along with younger or less visible researchers (like I consider myself, at least for the second label), which is also a pleasure in a field that sometimes tends to be somehow repetitive on topics and authors.

A final remark in order to list my positive reaction to the list of contents, is that the collection introduces quite a plural view on the cultural diversity of the Peninsula. Along with the well-known literature and cultural productions in Castilian, we also find approaches to Portuguese, Basque or Catalan works and authors. All in all, this was a true challenge for the editors, Javier Muñoz-Basols, Laura Lonsdale and Manuel Delgado, that has been brilliantly overcome and means an stake in the Iberian Studies within the Area Studies field. This volume should catch the attention of specialized scholars and journals. Now is time to carefully read it. This will also take a time!


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

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.

Sales in Priorat

July 18, 2013 § Leave a comment


Catalonia celebrated last year the ‘Year Sales-Calders-Tísner 1912-2012′. A full calendar of activities and cultural events remembered the legacy of three great writers; all them united by the fighting for the democracy and the liberties of Catalonia and against fascism. All three wrote prominent texts, being Calders a master of the short story, Tísner excelling in journalism and chronicles, and Sales… well… Sales wrote the best novel about the Spanish Civil War ever published. He indeed wrote other novels and short stories, but his legacy and the text to which he dedicated almost his entire life was Incerta glòria, a book translated into English in 2002 (Uncertain glory, trans. by David H. Rosenthal).

Sales is one writer who I consider has been unaware by the cultural world (he is very unknown, even in Catalonia). Only a brief note in the Spanish Wikipedia is dedicated to Sales, and the entry for Incerta glòria is an undeveloped text just for the Catalan version. Little information is found on-line in English about the author who wrote one of the best European novels of the twentieth century, and also one of the best works against war and violence.

I read it years ago and I was immediately caught by the epistolary structure, the strength of the language and the thoughts of the main characters, the philosophy about life and the nonsense of war, and the reflexion that the novel generated in me as reader about the evil and the absurdity, the loneliness and the complexity of the human being. Incerta glòria (1956) is in one sense a book comparable in quality to Celine’s Voyage au bout de la nuit (1932) or Mailer’s The naked and the dead (1948), all texts being masterpieces refusing war and violence. All them are novels grounded on writers’ experience as soldiers and dig in the obscure parts of the human mind from with different techniques and approaches.

Last Saturday I was visiting Siurana, a place where I go from time to time, as is one of the most beautiful sites in my nearby. Sales lived here for years and he was buried (1983) in the tiny cemetery behind a Romanic Church from which you have spectacular views to the reservoir of Siurana River. I was remembering the characters of the novel and some of the best passages and taking some pictures. You can smell there the spirit of Sales, climbing the hilly land of Priorat among vineyards. A pleasant sensation now frozen in this post.


Spanish Civil War on the screen: a study

January 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

It has been nice to participate in the book La Guerra Civil televisada. La representación de la contienda en la ficción y el documental españoles, edited by Sira Hernández. It is a compilation of seven chapters on different approaches on how the Spanish Civil War has been narrated through television in Spain.

Sira Hernández offers an insightful study on how TVE (Spanish public television) has reported on the war through documentaries during the last years of the dictatorship and the transition to democracy. The representation of the war was, in her words, “to the service of the legitimation of the respective political systems in Spain in each historical period” (p. 50). The last tense of this text is highly illustrative: “The war was remembered to definitively overcome it and embracing the new brand democracy with hope”.

Also very relevant is the chapter from José Carlos Rueda Laffond and Elena Galán, about how TV fiction has represented the war during the last ten years (2001-2012). The authors offer a rather exhaustive relation of the historical programmes in public and private channels, along with some reflexions on series like Cuéntame cómo pasó, or Amar en tiempos revueltos. Finally, one of my favorite texts is the one from Francisca López on the fictional production of TVE during the 80’s, and more specifically studying the productions La plaza del diamante, Lorca, la muerte de un poeta.

More: have a look to the content and the introduction.

Memory in conflict

July 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

The field of the mediatisation of memory is of great interest and impact in contemporary configurations of popular history.  In recent times, I have been researching on how Spanish Civil War has been accounted in several documentaries produced by the Catalan public television TVC. In brief, an article on this will appear in a book on the televisualization of the war in the Spanish context, edited by Sira Hernández (Universidad de Navarra). My vision is that the Catalan TV produced a set of documentaries in the 2000’s that raised a set of topics silenced since that moment. Some of these serious facts were the stolen children of Francoism or the desaparecidos during the war/post-war in Spain. Far from presenting a Manichean story, and consistently grounded in journalistic and historical research, some of the TVC documentaries –worthy to mention those by Montse Armengou and Ricard Belis– are an unquestionable heritage of contemporary journalism in Europe. During the next months I will go on investigating in this matter, under the umbrella of the research project I am leading, as the memory has been a great battlefield for the political conflict in Spain during the last decades.

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