Eugenia Afinoguénova, Jaume Martí-Olivella, eds. Spain Is (Still) Different: Tourism and Discourse in Spanish Identity. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2008. xxxviii + 290 pp. $75.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7391-2401-7.
Benita Sampedro Vizcaya, Simon Doubleday. Border Interrogations: Questioning Spanish Frontiers. Remapping Cultural History Series. New York: Berghahn Books, 2008. viii + 267 pp. $85.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-84545-434-0.
Reviewed by Gary W. McDonogh (Bryn Mawr University)
Published on H-SAE (June, 2010)
Commissioned by Abby L. Drwecki (Indiana University)
Comparing Two Studies of Spanish National Identity
Despite shared commitments to the study of culture across many European disciplines, these two interesting and varied collections underscore the value and limits of interdisciplinarity for Europeanist anthropologists. The changing natures and implications of borders, for example, have intrigued many H-SAE members who have worked through multiple transitions of European states and the European Union as well as local/"external" relations changing European populations, nations, and the European Union in relation to immigrant populations (See Hastings Donnan and Thomas Wilson, Borders: Frontiers of Identity, Nation and State ). Benita Sampedro Vizcaya and Simon Doubleday's collection provides stimulating perspectives, drawn from a wide historical and geographical range, that refresh the theories, methods, and goals through which we deal with border issues. Almost all of these studies, however, are based in texts--literary, visual, and cinematic--and their primary theoretical genealogy flows through Etienne Balibar, Michel Foucault, and Homi Bhabha. These differences demand "border crossings" and dialect shifts for anthropological readers--especially as each contributor explains his/her own conceptual framework. The essays assembled by Eugenia Afinoguénova and Jaume Martí-Olivella, by contrast, spend less time on theoretical issues while providing multiple perspectives on the discourses and practices of tourism that have fundamentally reshaped Spain. These pieces should be more accessible and perhaps more stimulating but still point to the need for dialogue across methods, theories, and disciplines in Spanish studies.
Nor should reviewing the volumes together as a stimulus to wider discussion obscure the differences between them. Border Interrogations includes scholars from departments of Spanish or Hispanic literary and cultural studies in the United States and Europe (and the well-known historian of the Philippines, Vicente Rafael). Its case studies explore frontiers of Spanish imperial extension in Africa, Latin America, and Europe as well as conflictive boundaries within the Iberian Peninsula; contributors analyze borders as both political constructs and nexus of changing cultural identities. The volume moves chronologically from contemporary studies to Renaissance and medieval materials, bringing out nuances that resonate across centuries as we consider what might constitute a "Spanish" identity and for whom. And each essay also contributes to a larger debate on how to study borders that is set up in a brief introduction but taken in different directions by individual contributors.
Spain is (Still) Different--whose title evokes a fundamental slogan of Spanish corporate tourism that became a touchstone for Spanish response as well--also draws on Spanish humanists. It begins, however, with an essay that could well stand alone as an introduction to tourism, its discourses and studies in Spain, embracing scholars of anthropology, history, literature, and cultural criticism. Even the editors' overview of essays illuminates wider debates on tourism informed by Mario Gaviria, Davydd Greenwood, Oriol Pi-Sunyer, Jacqueline Waldren, and John Urry, among others. Its temporal and geographic focus is more limited as well, in so far as state-guided tourism was officially created by a royal decree in 1905 and essays are limited to Spain. As in Border Interrogations, texts, both literary and cinematic, represent primary data, yet contributors often frame these with a stronger social historical and even ethnographic context.
The contrast is clear in stimulating essays by one of two contributors who appears in both volumes, Joseba Gabilondo. In Border Interrogations, he provides a close reading of the tortured contradictions through which Basque anthropologist Mikel Azurmendi has argued anti-multicultural positions in the post-Francoist state. Gabilondo examines Azurmendi's startling defense of peasants who had rioted against African immigrants in El Ejido to elucidate tortured models of racism and assimilation that he links to Azurmendi's denunciation of Basque nationalism as an impediment to a wider national project. While some may be put off by the intensely Freudian framing of this chapter around state secondary narcissism and needs for repression, this is an important reading of neoliberal discourse in Spain. Gabilondo's longer piece in Spain Is (Still) Different, "On the Inception of Western Sex as Orientalist Theme Park: Tourism and Desire in Nineteenth-Century Spain (On Carmen and Don Juan as Femme Fatale and Latin Lover)," sounds equally literary, but it offers a creative historical inversion of literary and social thought that reads European modernity from Spain. Challenging the Foucaultian orientalization of Spain embodied in the many lives of Carmen, Gabilondo provides a multilayered reading of nineteenth-century Spanish masculinity through the European adventures of José Zorilla's Don Juan, who transforms his Spanish forebears through a new economy of conquest across the continent. This rich, complex analysis argues that Spain is neither marginal to Europe nor a mere object of tourist gaze but the "geopolitical center of (the birth of) modern biopolitics" (p. 54).
Key terms also take on different meanings across the two volumes, like the term "convivencia," which generally evokes idyllic cultural fluidity in Muslim, Jewish, and Christian contexts in medieval Iberia. Mariano Gómez Aranda questions medieval convivencia in Border Interrogations through the lives and works of three Jewish scholars who crossed medieval Iberian borders. These examples underscore exilic nostalgia and identification with Jewish communities left behind by choice or force. An essay in Spain Is (Still) Different by Daniela Flesler and Adrián Pérez Melgosa, "Marketing Convivencia: Contemporary Tourist Appropriations of Spain's Jewish Past," provides a provocative counterpoint as they show how "rediscovery" of Jewish heritage as a marketing device in Spanish villages poses ambivalent meanings for Sephardic Jews converted into both historical relics and contemporary customers without acknowledgement or discussion of the realities of expulsion and persecution central to Spanish and Jewish history: "Those invited today as desirable guests were for centuries inhabitants and owners of these 'Spanish' places, and were later transformed into unpleasant guests who had overstayed their welcome and had to be expelled" (p. 74). This insight becomes more chilling in so far as modern rhetoric links the Sephardim to today's autonomous communities. Yet convivencia loses this rich resonance in another piece in Border Interrogations when applied by Susan Martin-Márquez to modern Africa as a space of convergence in visual arts in the work of Mallorcan painter Miguel Barceló and the Catalan filmmaker José Luis Guerín (known especially for his creative documentary on Barcelona's portside Raval, En Construcción). Barceló has traveled and lived extensively in Mali and West Africa, experiences that have changed the form and politics of his paintings and their reception in a changing Spain, but in reading about this dialogue, I could not help recalling James Clifford's classic "On Ethnographic Surrealism" (published in his The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art ) and encounters that transformed the Dogon in Western imagination.
Despite the modern focus of Spain Is (Still) Different, the volumes also converge in their reconsideration of the meanings of the European Enlightenment for later Spanish development. Alberto Medina begins Spain Is (Still) Different with a brief but thoughtful essay highlighting José Cadalso's eighteenth-century understanding of the performative character of national identity. In Border Interrogations, he offers a different albeit complementary perspective in his scrutiny of Spanish efforts to refute the subordination imposed by "Europe" and the role of Bourbon monarchs and foreign elites in redefining eighteenth-century Spain. In particular, Medina illuminates the strategies of imported artists Giambattista Tiepolo and Anton Mengs, both of whom produced complex ceilings for the throne rooms of Charles III. While Mengs evoked classical forebears and a new order, Medina reads a baroque, Habsburgian view in Tiepolo's mural--a division that comments in interesting ways on the Spanish monarchy's attempts to participate in Europe. Both artistic projects entailed foreign presence defining Spanish citizenship--a theme that certainly dominates tourism studies as well.
Another Enlightenment piece in Border Interrogations, by Francisco-J. Hernández Adrián, provides an important textual/contextual analysis of José de Viera Clavijo's Noticias de la historia general de las Islas de Canaria (1772-83) as an Atlantic-based critique of Spanish imperialism. Hernández insists on the unique situation of the islands of the empire in a century of change and this call for monarchical attention. Visibility, in fact, is a recurrent element that confronts borders of blindness. Viera's critique of George Glas's History of the Discovery and Conquest of the Canary Islands (1767) underscores the threat of foreign interests even as Viera located the real historical materials through his position in Madrid and his scouring of European archives. An early modern reading of borders by Michael Armstrong-Roche underscores similar ambiguities in Miguel de Cervantes's Numancia (1581-85). The author shows how this powerful origin myth entangling two founding peoples--Celtiberians and Romans--emphasizes positive and negative aspects of patriotism in each that might have been a warning for imperial Spain. Were the hard-fought borders of Numancia and Rome equivalent to those of Spain and its enemies--or of Spain and its imperial subjects?
Both books deal with issues of difference within Spain. In Spain Is (Still) Different, historian John Walton, who has produced important studies on tourism in Spain, provides a concise but suggestive reading of changing worlds of leisure from the nineteenth century through the Civil War. Mining overlooked sources within tax records, he explores a range of leisure activities from beach to bullfights, casinos to theater. He illustrates differences of class as well as relations of external tourism to tourism within Spain. Justin Crumbaugh provides a complementary perspective through an examination of touristic reinterpretations of rural areas, including Basque (urban) tourists exploring nationalist identities. Literature, practice, and history from the nineteenth century onward converge in his reading of Joan Mari Irigoien's 1991 Babilonia. These observations intersect with Gabilondo's reading of Basque neoliberalism in Border Interrogations as well as anthropological and historical studies by Julio Caro Baroja, William Douglass, Teresa Del Valle, Jacqueline Urla, and others on the construction of Basque identity, and balance analyses by Joseba Zulaika (Crónica de una seducción: El Museo Guggenheim Bilbao ) and Geraldo del Cerro (Bilbao: Basque Pathways to Globalization ) of the urban attractions of contemporary Bilbao.
Although Barcelona has also become a major tourist destination, especially since the convergence of urban redesign and Olympic globalism in the 1980s and 1990s, Benjamin Fraser's appraisal of Juan Goytisolo's novel Señas de Identidad (1966) examines landscapes of tourism in Barcelona of the mid-Franco period (in Spain Is [Still] Different). Here, one wishes for much more engagement with multiple studies of the urban landscape that have enriched readings of Barcelona, such as Stéphane Michonneau's Barcelona: memòria i identitat (2003); the recent massive exhibit on the city and its visual forms assembled at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum (William Robinson, Jordi Falgàs, and Carmen Lord's, Barcelona and Modernity ); or extensive studies in geography, anthropology, and architecture.
Within Border Interrogations, Cristina Moreiras-Menor shows how the Galician-language short story "A man dos pianos," by Manuel Rivas, interweaves a global text with sociocultural meanings of "morriña," a melancholic nostalgia of exile and immigration. The story deals with gallegos in London (and a crucial intersection with a Kashmiri immigrant), layered against the narrator's reflections of dislocation and homeland. Moreiras-Menor highlights their resonance in rethinking peninsular identities outside of national identities rather than as fragments thereof (thus, an interesting piece to read against Gabilondo's). Another keystone piece in Border Interrogations by Parvati Nair suggests how rich intersections may be for cultural/textual studies and anthropology. Her work in Ceuta combines empathetic listening with cultural readings of separation along this embattled frontier of Spain and Morocco as well as within it. This piece is infused by global perspectives, as much a philosophical anthropology of reflection as a study imbued with fieldwork. It stands out for powerful images--the separation of Muslim neighborhoods, the transitory globalization of recent immigrants, and the multilayered Europeanness of Ceuta--more than systematic readings. Nair treats Ceuta as a challenge to Spanish and Western identity, but one may be left with the question of what and who Ceuta is.
Both collections look beyond Spain but in radically different ways. For tourism studies, European definitions of "Spain" as object haunt almost every essay; the Spanish tourist as consumer is scarcely present, much less relations to a wider Hispanidad. Border Interrogations raises the question of European and African frontiers, as noted; wider imperial borders and control are exemplified by David Rojinsky's critical reading of Manso de Contreras's 1661 Relación of the Tehuantepac Rebellion in seventeenth-century Mexico. Looking through a prism of the prose of counterinsurgency, he shows how this text establishes profound identities between colonial violence and colonial justice, borders that appear uncrossable despite indigenous rebellion. Rafael's insightful analysis of the seminal Filipino figure of José Rizal through his lesser-known novel El Filibusterismo (1891) reads Spanish borders from another vantage within the empire. Rafael underscores Rizal's globalism through travel and language (a theme picked up at length in Benedict Anderson's Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-colonial Imagination ), themes that permeate complications of religion, vengeance, and narrative. Through these, he evokes the meaning of Rizal and his texts in the construction of Filipino citizenship; Rafael's synthesis of textual details, historical materials, and reflections on divisions provides an important counterpoint to more Iberian visions of borders.
Another area of particular complementarity for these two volumes and contemporary ethnological investigations emerges in their examination of visual culture. Medina's analysis of the politics of painting (Border Interrogations) finds its modern counterpart in Spain Is (Still) Different in a fascinating piece by art historian María Bolañas who employs her encyclopedic knowledge of museology to elucidate the ideologies and counterstrategies of museum formation as attractions under the Franco regime. The lack of facilities for (and suspicion of) modern art during this period met initiatives from curators and artists that again underscore the complexities of modernity and heritage. She illustrates the different meanings of art, intellectual resistance, and display in Madrid and the Museum of Spanish Abstract Arts in Cuenca. Neither piece, unfortunately, provides visual evidence to accompany these arguments--a general issue for both volumes. While the lack of maps and illustrations may be understandable in terms of the demands of preparation for anthologies, nonspecialist readers may miss them.
Film is an even more important focus in both volumes, suggesting methods and conclusions where social and cultural analyses in anthropology might converge. Rosi Song, for example, in Border Interrogations, examines three recent movies about Latin American women migrants as refractions of power and desire within contemporary Spain. This responds well to Gabilondo's essay, which contrasts the potential for assimilation of African immigrants Azurmendi has "championed" and the erasure of Latin Americans as immigrants of shared but unequal heritage. Song shows how films portray and embody a problematic tension between Latina females redeemed by love and assimilation and the definition of these females by their exoticness. As she argues, even as these texts use stereotypes, the absences in the discussion--especially about race--raise questions for their directors and Spanish society as a whole. At the same time, Song shows how these dramas about borders also suggest a turn toward more conservative structures of class and domesticity in contemporary Spain.
Spain Is (Still) Different provides several essays on film that go beyond tourism to raise questions about Spanish reflections and identities as well. Patricia Hart's wide-ranging essay on films on tourism and tourists, for example, provides a refreshing appeal to comedy as a source of knowledge collections, from the well-known Bienvenido Mr. Marshall (1953) to the near-forgotten Spanish career of the actress Nadiuska who embodied "Swedishness" and its multiple meanings in Spanish fantasy. Hart traces themes of hyper-performance of identity through folklorization of Andalusia or critical readings of Spanish myth (the controversial Basque film Airbag (1997). She also underscores the displacement of Spanish visions through tourism and tourists, and the problematic power structures of the Franco regime themselves displaced by tourism.
While Hart's work draws suggestive points from decades of films, Annabel Martín looks at two melodramas of the late Franco era, José Luis Sánz Heredia's Pero en qué país vivimos! (1967) and Mariono Ozores's En un lugar de la Manga (1970), probing the subversive nature of melodrama to explore political economic tensions of the period. This elegant comparison focuses on a pair of films with the same stars--Manolo Escobar and Concha Velasco--and the intertexts both bring to their stories. The first presents a "Taming of the Shrew" scenario framed by a televisual song competition between a traditional singer (whose popular votes will be registered by national sales of sherry) and a yé yé girl whose European modernity includes miniskirts and whiskey as a ballot. Ultimately, love and tradition triumph, but with enough questions that we may read a moment of crisis in Spanish society. The second film deals with land sales for tourist development, mingling gender issues with questions of memory complicated by Francoist repression of histories.
The final essay in Spain Is (Still) Different, by Olivella, moves from gender reconciliation to border crossings embodied in the intersection of sex trafficking and tourism. Martí blends the analysis of documentaries with fictional movies that have situated this discussion within Spain, generally with regard to movement from Eastern Europe. These themes also comment in interesting ways on the images of gender and power examined by Gabilondo, Song (Border Interrogations), Hart, and Martín.
Border Interrogations, by contrast, ends with a reflective piece by Eduardo Subirats, cultural philosopher and critic at New York University. Subirats scrutinizes the borders that have defined Spain and Hispanic studies and that future interdisciplinary critical scholarship should challenge. He deconstructs claims of universality (Hispanidad), unity, Hispanic identity, spirituality, and power that have set boundaries of ideology and scholarship in the past, ending with a reexamination of the implications of limits imposed on modernity and the avant-garde. His goal, in the end, is not simply a revitalized analysis of Spain and areas of Spanish contact, but a resituation of concepts from Spain and the Americas within a wider world of critical theory, a goal that both volumes ultimately advance.
Still, while marked by insights and reflections of value to anthropology, one might also ask why studies in social sciences have so little impact in these discussions. When Nair, for example, writes "this chapter will attempt an anthropology of the border as currently exemplified in Ceuta," does this not seem to call out for a dialogue with Henk Driessen's On the Spanish-Moroccan Frontier: A Study in Ritual, Power and Ethnicity (1992) and subsequent work (e.g., "Coping with 'Fortress Europe': Views from Four Seaports on the Spanish-Moroccan Border," published in Warwick Armstrong and James Anderson's collection Geopolitics of European Enlargement: The Fortress Empire ) (p. 16)? Interdisciplinarity entails exchanges among multiple disciplines; even as anthropologists read further afield, we might ask that our colleagues engage in similar adventures. Here, one might hope that cultural studies would find a richer dialogue following a Birmingham model rather than the literary-textual dominant paradigm that has emerged in the United States.
These essays certainly indicate the importance of extending the discussion from anthropology as well as incorporating these methods, theories, and conclusions judiciously into our studies. Yet they also underscore the contributions anthropologists continue to make to these themes. While Spain Is (Still) Different is clearly focused on discourse, the people of tourism--clients and performers--remain silent. While essays in each volume grapple with region/identity and gender, they would profit by even more systematic attention to negotiations of gender, sexuality, class, and race that have been staples of anthropological and social historical investigations. Our grounding not only in texts and institutions but also in lived experiences--houses, foods, schools, and public spaces--provides an important balance to discussions of both borders and tourisms as we grapple with Spain, its cultures, changes, and implications for wider studies.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-sae.
Gary W. McDonogh. Review of Afinoguénova, Eugenia; Martí-Olivella, Jaume, eds., Spain Is (Still) Different: Tourism and Discourse in Spanish Identity and
Vizcaya, Benita Sampedro; Doubleday, Simon, Border Interrogations: Questioning Spanish Frontiers.
H-SAE, H-Net Reviews.
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