Qui no té passat no té identitat: tales of transgression and voices from history in activist Barcelona

Reynolds, Grace, Anthropology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Danziger, Eve, Anthroology, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines activist storytelling, situated language use in social movements, and the linguistic landscape of protest and direct action discourse in Barcelona. I collect the stories of a group of elderly activists who were involved in clandestine labor-organizing under Franco’s dictatorship, and who continue to organize today, aligning themselves with the anti-austerity, anti-capitalist 15M movement. Since the 1975 death of Franco and the ensuing ‘transition to democracy,’ there have been various efforts, both legislative and social, to suppress or ‘forget’ the nearly 4 decades of Franco and the atrocities of the Civil War which preceded it. As a result, the various triumphs of the Left that occurred during and preceding these eras are also absent from public memorialization, including the brief de facto era of anarchist socialism that was centered in Barcelona in 1936. I demonstrate how the elderly activists of today are able to mobilize different semiotic modalities to preserve the memory of these earlier moments in Spanish and Catalan history. In particular, their actions preserve the values of worker self-management that have been associated with the centuries-old lucha obrera (labor movement) in Barcelona.
In discussion of several specific cases and texts, I argue that the trope of transgression (desobediencia) is a central foundation upon which these activists construct a moral geography (Hill 1995) that places them, as activist subjects who resist unjust authority, in the center. Overall, each of the specific reminders of past activist transgressions which I document can be considered a part of the one overarching transgressive act of these elderly activists: preservation of the memory and values of a now-occluded episode of Spanish and Catalan history.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Catalonia, activist, linguistic choice, historical memory
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