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Dr Gorka Mercero, Lecturer in Basque Studies, attended the XVII Forum for Iberian Studies from 29-30 September, which was hosted by the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages at the University of Oxford. In this short Q+A, Gorka tells us about the conference and his contribution to it. 

So Gorka, what was the conference about?

Overall, the conference discussed the crisis in the Iberian peninsula and its repercussions on contemporary cultural production, especially in literature and the arts.

To give more context, Spain is undergoing a turbulent period, due to the global financial crisis of 2008, but also due to a manifold political crisis that seems far from reaching an end and that involves a range of destabilizing issues, from institutional corruption to geopolitical conflict. The ongoing pro-independence process in Catalonia is on the verge of changing radically the history of the Spanish state and is currently the clearest symptom that Spain never completed fully its formation as a nation-state.

Were there any papers that impressed you particularly?

A couple of the keynote speakers in the conference, such as Dr Joseba Gabilondo or Dr Helena Miguélez-Carballeira, devoted their papers to an analysis and critique of the centralist and homogenizing ideology that still pursues the goal of a uniform Spain and ignores long-held claims for the recognition of its internal national differences.

What was your contribution to the conference?

The context for my paper was the notion that the Basque country is another focus of nationalist conflict within the Spanish state. My contribution engaged with Dr Gabilondo’s suggestion that Basque literature has reached a ‘postnational’ stage. Thus, according to Dr Gabilondo, Basque literature has finally overcome the need to create a ‘national allegory’, namely an empowering image to represent the Basques to the rest of the world. On the contrary, I suggested that the need for such a representation is still as intense as ever, but has reached the point where Basque national identity – probably as any other in this age of globalization – has to be redefined by a radical opening to other identities that sets no clear limits between them anymore.

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