The bitter land

February 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

“Dissolution by indefinition is not an impossible final for peoples” (Francesc Mira, Sobre la nació dels valencians)

I have just finished the book written by the journalist Vicent Sanchis (Valencia, 1961), Valencians, encara. Cinquanta anys després de Joan Fuster (Valencians, still. Fifty years after Joan Fuster). The text, awarded with the XXXIII Prize Carles Rahola, is quite a brilliant contribution to the debate on the national identity in Valencia. Since the book from Joan Francesc Mira, Sobre la nació dels valencians, I haven’t enjoyed such an appropriate diagnosis on the topic; revisited each five or ten years by the local intellectuals.

The main objective of the text is to aim the validity of the thesis from Joan Fuster on the Catalan nature of the Valencian nationality. I agree with the author that no other essayist has overcame, in terms of quality, audacity and influence, the writer born in Sueca. Sanchis acknowledges that many of the ideas contained in Nosaltres els valencians should be reviewed but the Valencian Country is today a “bitter land”, in the sense that several historical opportunities has been lost in order “to be”. And for this, a country needs politics. Otherwise, as Sanchis states (our translation),

Valencian is, partly, a “politics-less country”. Not in the sense of having its own institutions –as, more or less efficient, it has-, nor regarding world-comparable political leaders, but in the ambitious meaning that Fuster wanted to express when he formulated this complaint (p. 225).

Sanchis is also right when he states that the Valencian case has been closed, “from the very centre of all Peninsular political powers, as a solved matter, liquidated”. Despite the pessimistic tone of these affirmations, the author recognizes some revival of the political forces backing a particular national process. The whole book is a very personal but comprehensible account of how Catalan identity has suffered a regression in Valencia, since the XV century to current days, and how Castilian rules, culture and logics have definitively colonized a country, my own, which one day was an international model to follow. The aspect that is perhaps more improvable is precisely the inflating importance given to the Fuster’s legacy, meanwhile some authors like Josep-Vicent Marqués are almost not mentioned. More analysis also deserves the role played by the media -and specially Canal 9, but also to local dailies-, in growing a Valencian identity.

This book is published in a crucial moment: I would say we are living a turn out in Valencia. Sanchis contribution adds to the recent books from Francesc Viadel (Valencianisme, l’aportació positiva), and Josep Vicent Boira (La Commonwealth catalanovalenciana and Valencia, la tormenta perfecta)… All these are must if someone aspires to understand the complexity of the Valencian case, as a particular society within Spain. Something is moving in this land, but to where?

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The failure of the Valencian television model

August 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

This summer we read sad news about Canal 9 TV, the channel of the Valencian Country and the only  broadcasting in Valencian for the whole Valencian population. The regional government has approved to laid off around 1,000 workers (when the staff is close to 1,600). The decision means the end of a television model and the beginning of an uncertain era for Canal 9. The Valencian public corporation tried to follow the model of bigger autonomic channels, like the Catalan or the Basque, in terms of structure but not in terms of content. In general, the channel avoided a clearer self-centered focus on the programmes.

The result has been the drop of audience ratings (around 6% in 2011, when the average of the Catalan channel was around 14% in 2011, for example) and an unsustainable financial debt.  Canal 9 failed to catch its natural audience, scheduling programmes in competition with private and public Spanish channels. The content did not finally match with the function of the corporation. Unfortunately, this confirms the idea I have defended: a successful proximity TV needs both, structural and symbolic strategies in accordance to its target audience. In the Valencian case, I would say, the second was the problem.

During years,Valencian TV resisted to dub films in the language of the population and, after some experiments, declined to produce their own TV series in Valencian -with some early and recent exceptions like L’Alqueria Blanca-, perhaps thinking that the bilingual audience would prefer a fiction in Spanish. The quality of the productions was also in the edge. News and current affairs programmes took a sweetened style, stuffed with soft-news and too irrelevant issues and taking a high infotainment profile. The audience split: those looking for more serious topics, political information, and a higher independent scope went to other public and private channels; those looking for a real trash TV also found their channels.

As I wrote recently in an article:

“The constitution of  a ‘self-centre’ can be understood as the concerted action of specific social  groups (through policies fostered by parliaments but also through the actions of non-governmental organisations and individuals) to forge a structure (corporations, media companies, social associations, infrastructures, human resources) which takes as one of its objectives the circulation of a way of seeing things which conceives the world from a certain ideological definition of a centre, in dialogue with competing definitions from other”. Centers and Peripheries. Metropolitan and non-Metropolitan Journalism in the Twenty-First Century (edited by D. Hutchison and H. O’Donnell). More here.

Valencian TV did not consider the Valencian country as a real political center. Power (financial and political) and ideology, representation and popular culture, cultural policy and media… is a complex equation. The channel did not create the audience: is matter rather related to the concept of habitus (Bourdieu). Someone thought that creating a huge infrastructure was enough to go on, in a never-ending inertia. In humble opinion, it was a matter of time.

A renewed narrative for Valencia

May 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

If there is a stroking story on the crisis within the Spanish context this is the Valencian. The other times rich community, a symbol of prosperity and liberal attitude, is today the region mostly related to economic crash, corruption and citizenship disenchantment. The book, Valencia, la tormenta perfecta, written by Josep Vicent Boira, is a comprehensive explanation of what has happened in the Valencian Country during the last years. Boira goes back to the thirties (S. XX) to explain how and why he region economy has fallen, but also why the political context is today so devaluated. I have read many essays on Valencia during the last days and I have to confess that this one is a relevant contribution, not closed to the habitual and tiring debate on ideology and identity. Boira has written, in my opinion, the best essay on the Valencian society of the last years and, I think that this text will be present during this decade, and specially meanwhile the crisis keeps alive.

Several passages of the book are to be noted related to my own interest. Boira is a geographer and gives a major importance to territory/territorialization, data on population and economy, etc. But in some parts of the book symbolic aspects and media are mentioned. As for example, in page 82 he writes: “To create Radio Televisió Valenciana and the public TV Canal 9 was not enough. It deserved to be filled of content”. This idea is so close to the one I elaborated in a recent article in a book on centers and peripheries: it is not enough the disposal of the structure, this structure must be filled with symbolical apparatus, a discourse… In other part of the book (p. 106), Boira also says that Valencian newspapers are not influential in the Spanish context (not like Catalan La Vanguardia for example) and later (p.125) refers to the dominance of the public TV by the Popular Party (sadly, most regional media in Spain have become a (deficitarian) tool for local governments, more than a space of free speech or regional development).

A renewed narrative

Finally, I want to note what perhaps is in my opinion one of the singular points of the book, but which is not appropriately developed. Boira defends that the Valencian country is needing a new narrative (p. 84). This idea of a “new narrative” is quickly mentioned in other parts of the book, but the author does not develop the idea. Even in the conclusions, this crucial aspect is just neglected. I understand that Boira is not perhaps the academic to go further in this matter and here there is a space for communication scholars, humanists (professional in the arts sector) and sociologists, together, to find new narratives for Valencia. My impression is that they are as important as the other measures smartly proposed in the conclusions. And is not a banal aspect, which new narrative for Valencia? The question would perhaps deserve an article series or even a book.

To end, just to mention the link between Boira and Enric Juliana. The former quotes the latter at the end of the book, and specifically the idea of “Modest Spain”, shortly commented in an earlier post.  Just anecdotical,  to note that Boira takes in account the work from my brother Rafael Castelló, quoted in the text (p. 85, 201) but awfuly neglected in the reference list.

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