New Perspectives on Nationalism in Spain

Carsten Jacob Humlebæk & Antonia María Ruiz Jiménez

Nations and nationalism, as organisational principles of social life, provide individuals with a sense of who they are and where they belong. While nations are not the only form of community to serve humankind in this manner, they remain privileged due to their relationship with the nation-state, the dominant form of political organisation. The Spanish nation, however, has been contested almost since its earliest existence in the beginning of the nineteenth century and the Spanish nation-state has therefore been involved in almost perpetual conflicts between various nationalisms, particularly between different versions of Spanish nationalism as well as between Spanish majority nationalism and various minority nationalisms.

At different times in the past two centuries, the conflicts have revived and turned into organising principles of the political communities in Spain, quite often as communities in conflict or contention but, nevertheless, as communities providing the Spaniards with different senses of belonging. 

In recent times both lines of contention have been activated again, both the conflict between left-wing and right-wing nationalisms around the definition of the Spanish nation as well as the majority-nationalist vs. minority nationalist conflict. The conflict between left-wing and right-wing interpretations of the Spanish nation, particularly understood through the prism of former losers and winners, respectively, of the Spanish civil war, has been revived since approximately year 2000 around the contentious issue of reviving or forgetting the so-called ’historical memory’. The other fault line between majority and minority nationalism has been revived even more recently from approximately 2005 and will be the principal focal point of this volume. The main current issue related to this conflict is the rise of Catalan separatism, but only a few years earlier the Basque identities were just as conflictual. Besides, various other territorially based conflicts loom in the shadow of the Catalan clash and are nourished from the eternal tensions between demands for symmetry and demands for asymmetry that characterise the decentralised Spanish democratic state.

These questions raise a number of issues that this volume addresses.

In the first section devoted to Spain, Pablo Sánchez León argues for a renovation in the study of nationalism and the related terminology around the concepts of nation and patria by addressing the issue of the rationality underlying the decisions by citizens willing to leave their homelands. In his chapter, Carmelo Moreno, aims to analyse which indicators are most efficient for testing how the different actors position themselves facing the phenomenon of the Spanish plurinational labyrinth. The focus of the chapter by Enrique Maestu Fonseca is on the evolution of Spanish conservative doctrine in the early years of democracy in Spain. Finally, the study of Robert Gould poses a comparative analysis of the presentation of the national identity of Spain and Germany by the far-right populist parties Vox España and Alternative für Deutschland. 

Another substantive part of this volume is devoted to Catalonia due to the current situation of secessionist struggle, which is a nationalist conflict by nature. But more than that, issues related to Catalan secessionism are central to current debates on European integration, nationalism, and territorial politics. In their chapter, Thomas Jeffrey Miley andRoberto Garvía stress the continuing legacy of what Linz famously referred to as a “three-cornered conflict” among “regional nationalists, the central government and immigrant workers,” which has long conditioned democratic politics in the region. The chapter by Alejandro Quiroga and Fernando Molina argues that the Great Recession provided a window of opportunity for hot nationalism in which Catalanist narratives of loss and resistance began to ring true to large sectors of Catalan society, whereas the Spanish constitutionalist narratives seemed increasingly outdated. Carsten Humlebæk and Mark F. Hau investigate the links between the Catalan independence movement and the large annual demonstrations on the Catalan national day, the Diada, showing that there has been a marked shift in the perception and organisation of the Diada in recent years, which seems related to who is organising the commemoration. Josep M. Oller, Albert Satorra and Adolf Tobeña refute previous studies that had shown that the impact of economic hardships was not a major factor in explaining the surge in secessionist demands.

Although Spain and Catalonia, and political identities, are the central focus of the book, Andalusia and Galicia are also included as case studies. In her chapter, Nichole Fernández, focuses on issues of transnationalism and homeland tourism to Galicia. The chapter of Pablo Ortiz Barquero continues to investigate VOX and focuses on the region of Andalusia. The chapter by Daniele Conversi andMatthew Machin-Autenrieth also studies Andalusia but from a different angle. The chapter examines the interrelationship between music and ‘intercultural regionalism’, focusing on how music is used by public institutions to ground social integration in the discourse of regionalism.

New Perspectives on Nationalism in Spain is published by MDPI Press in ‘open access’ and can be downloaded here.