Democracy and Nationalisms: A Two-Day Debate on Contemporary Spain in honor of Ángel Loureiro’s Retirement

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018

Written by Jorge Gaupp, Berta del Río and Robert Myak

On the occasion of Ángel Loureiro’s retirement, In(ter)dependence Days? A conversation on Democracy, (Post)Nationalism, and the Spanish State gathered a diverse group of approximately thirty scholars who think differently regarding complex questions related to Nationalisms, Democracy and Sovereignty. This diversity of thought allowed for a lively discussion, and it was remarkable to see how the subject matter was so nicely reflected in the diversity of the panelists. In other words, the plurality of thoughts regarding polarizing issues, such as Catalan Independence, brought about some passionate responses and intense moments. This passion resulted in the incredible intellectual caliber of the conversation, thus suggesting the interdependence of the motley group of thinkers and presentations.

The congress was articulated around the themes of “nationalism” and “democracy,” and these themes were addressed from a wide array of perspectives: European right-wing populists and other Eurosceptics, the history and representations of former Spanish colonies in Africa, the role of foreign intellectuals and reputed filmmakers in national discourses, the history of peninsular populism in relation to Catalonia or Podemos, Galician contemporary culture and social movements, and the mere possibility of nationalism in the post-nuclear era.

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Out of the many debates that took place both inside and outside of East Pyne 010, two gained special attention and comments from the audience. On Friday afternoon, Joan Ramón Resina and Guillem Martínez, two of the best-informed analysts of both Catalonian history and politics, engaged in a genuine, stimulating (and sometimes unstoppable) debate about the current “Procés” in Catalonia. Afterwards, the final roundtable was shaken by Luis Estudillo’s apparently simple question, in which he asked his colleagues and fellow speakers about how the field had changed throughout their many decades in academia. Each member of the roundtable recounted how he had experienced these changes, ranging from its incipient phase centering on Hispanic philology firmly rooted in canonical readings, to a more broadly defined field of Iberian studies linked to cultural studies. Various participants in both the roundtable and the audience stressed the complexities of maintaining cohesion and rigor in a field that had vastly expanded its object of study, while others mentioned some current alternatives and projects tackling that challenge.

The weekend came to a close with a wonderful shared meal at Nassau Sushi. Following the weekend’s trend, the participants and many students occupied the small restaurant and filled it with lively conversation that focused on topics both related and unrelated to the colloquium. It was a fitting way to close a weekend that had pushed all participants to deeply consider difficult themes regarding contemporary Spain. Among the students present, many knew and worked directly with Prof. Loureiro, while others had just met him that weekend. Regardless of how connected they are to Ángel, many commented on Ángel’s commitment to cutting-edge research on the intersection between memory, ethics and politics. Additionally, his students and peers also praised his excellence in teaching and guidance, as well as the ethical and careful way in which he directed and served Princeton’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese, which was established under his leadership in 2001. Without a doubt, Ángel is a model scholar, teacher, mentor, and friend to the presenters and audience members alike.