THE CATALAN INDEPENDENCE DEBATE 

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Method and Theoretical Framework

I will do this by studying the current conflict between Catalonia and Spain using sources such as news channels, newspapers, online documentaries regarding the citizens of the Catalan region. The news channels I refer to are the BBC and Channel 4, during their coverage of the recent protests and referendum, as well as gathering information from The Guardian’s short documentary series ‘I am Catalan’ from 2017; a series in which a number of Catalan citizens are interviewed and tell their own personal stories, feelings and thoughts towards independence from Spain, both for and against. After gathering this data, I will then use anthropological literature to apply various linguistic and cultural theories to explore the different arguments for and against independence for Catalonia.
First I will discuss the history of Catalonia and the relationship between Spain and Catalonia. The aim of this chapter is to understand how the rising hostility between Catalonia and Spain started, and which historical factors are behind it. I seek to understand the continuous rise and fall of the language and how this has formed the Catalan culture and society. The fourth chapter of this essay is the main discussion. During this chapter I explore the politics and power of language. I discuss the social and cultural arguments for and against separation from Spain and use theories regarding identity, politics, nationalism and language to understand them. In this Chapter I will be mainly using Hylland Eriksen’s book ‘Small place, Large Issues’to explain the theories of nationalism and Power of the state, referring to education, media and so on, and ‘An introduction to sociolinguistics’ by Wardhaugh & Fuller, in order to understand the role that linguistics play in the previously mentioned subjects. In the final chapter I will summarize the discussions and theories that have been explored through the essay and attempt to form an analysis and conclusion from my research that provides answers to the questions asked, and fulfils the purpose of the essay.

The Catalan independence debate

In this Chapter I will provide a brief background to Catalonia and discuss the historical factors in regard to Catalonia’s relationship with Spain in order to gain a deeper understanding of the conflict today.

Developments through the twentieth century

In 1923, General Primo de Rivera led a coup, placing the Spanish government in the hands of a Military Directorate. Some of the first measures enforced by the Military Directorate were the prohibition of the use of Catalan and Catalanist symbols in public places, as well as shutting down the majority of nationalist organizations. Primo de Rivera remained in power for five years until the King and other powerful members of the Spanish society decided to withdraw their support. Despite the anti-Catalanist ideology of Primo de Rivera during his regime, the Catalan culture seemed to blossom during this time, leading to Catalan nationalism. This happened due to the fact that the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera did not ban what could be passed as merely cultural activity. This cultural activity continued and even grew during this time, one could say it was a passive resistance that accumulated significant long-term gains (Carreras 2009:19). In 1931 there was a strong boost to the rising progress for Catalanist aspirations. The left-wing nationalist leader, Francesc Maciá proclaimed an independent Catalan republic as “a member state of an Iberian federation”. However, Madrid did not wish to show their support during the negotiations. Macia then had to renounce the initial position, in exchange for a regional government within a unitary Spanish republican constitution (Carreras 2009:20). It was then that the name of the ‘Generalitat’ was given and the referendum on the Catalan state of Autonomy endorsed it by the high turnout of voters.
An intense period during 1931 for the Catalan culture was made possible by the extended self-government; meaning official status for the Catalan language in public administration and education. This was not a long enough period of time to make the educational system fully Catalanised, however there was a noticeable change. All signs pointed to the Catalan people creating a movement for Catalan to become a fully normalized language (Carreras 2009:20). Following all these positive developments for Catalonia, the defence of the Catalan language and Catalan politics were almost thrust into extinction due to the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. Following the victory of the General Franco in the Civil war, public use of the language was completely prohibited. Catalan was replaced by Spanish in all the places it had managed to occupy over the past years (media, publications, education etc.) and many Catalan politicians, public figures and intellectuals had been murdered or exiled from the country (Carreras 2009:21). During the 40’s, the Catalan language slowly started to reorganize itself after the Allies victory in 1945. Although the language had suffered serious setbacks during the beginning of the Franco era, the repression of Catalan was slowly starting to relax and the public openness with the speaking of the language was visible. For example, a Catalan stage production was put on in 1948, and publication of Catalan books resumed (Carreras 2009:21). During the late 50’s and 60, Catalonia became famous for as a symbolic force against the political order in Spain. During this time, speaking, reading or interacting in Catalan was seen as a form of protest against the Fascist regime. As the Franco regime started to weaken its grip on the changing country, the resilience of the Catalan language was highlighted in the form of literary creations, mainly poetry, but also in the form of a popular song movement now known as La Nova Canco (Carreras 2009:22), which was the first mass culture manifestation to be vocalized through Catalan. During the 60’s Spain’s state censorship started to relax, permitting publication of foreign literature into Catalan, along with new press laws which allowed further use of the language (Carreras 2009:23).

Catalonia after the democratic transition

Post-Franco reign, Catalonia had regional autonomy. The region has since been a land of consensus, where the different political groups have put their country first, and their partisan options second (Llobera 2004:3). After Franco died in 1975, Spain faced a difficult transition over to democracy. The language was enjoying a certain form of ‘respect’ under the terms of the Spanish constitution of 1978, and the protection of the autonomy states of Catalonia (Valencia & Balearic Islands). Normalization of the social and public use of the Catalan language has been and continues to be a problem in each Catalan area, even as the political conditions for this are assured ‘on paper’ (Carreras 2009:23). It has only been since the 1980’s that the Institute of Catalan Studies and associated institutions have regained the power and authority to expand upon and modernise standard Catalan; meaning that recommendations for new terminology in all different areas of the language are allowed and received. From this point, onwards the Catalans have been facing opposing political forces, making the development of their language and culture a slightly uphill battle. There are some people who believe that since the democratic transition, Catalonia has morphed into a region with a lack of democracy once again, trying to control the language spoken but instead this time, trying to ban Spanish (Gibson 2012), although there is no proof that there are any monolingual Catalan speakers at all. In post-Franco Spain, this language debate has greatly intensified. It has become difficult to disentangle the linguistic and cultural from the parochial and political (Hoffman 2001:50). Since 2005 the support for independence in the autonomous community of Catalonia has risen quickly. The opinion polls have confirmed that 80% of Catalans support the referendum on independence (Crameri 2014:1).

The politics of Language

This chapter will address the concept of language and power. I will discuss how language and culture can be used as a tool for power by the state, as well as how language forms structures and identities in cultures, communities and individuals. I will do this by exploring different anthropological and sociological theories regarding social identity, speech communities, nationalism, language and political power.

The Catalan Language

Catalan is a member of the Romance languages, it’s the national language spoken in Andorra and the co-official language in the autonomous Spanish regions of the Balearic Islands, Valencia and Catalonia, as well as in the city of Alghero in the Italian island of Sardinia. This means the total extent of the regions in which Catalan is spoken covers roughly 69,250 square kilometres (Carreras 2009:3). From these statistics, it has been calculated that around eleven million people live in Catalan speaking regions, seven million people speak the language as their mother tongue and that Catalan is understood by almost ten million (Carreras 2009:3). This makes it by far the most spoken language of all Europe’s “minority languages”. The language is officially divided into two main dialect blocks; Eastern Catalan and Western Catalan. While discussing the geographical aspects of Catalan it is important to mention the concept of the Catalan Lands (Pasisos Catalans), which is the group of territories whose culture and language are Catalan and situated along the western sea board of the Mediterranean. This concept, which is defined by a cultural and linguistic unity, can be defined as a “stateless nation”. (Carreras 2009:3). This term still lives as a political ideal and a way of referring to a sense of community identity, across administrative boundaries, based on a historical and socio-linguistic reality (Carreras 2009:3). The term ‘stateless nation’ usually refers to an ethnic minority that does not have its own state, however it has its own language, culture and traditions.

Language and Social Identity

During the 1990’s, language took centre stage within Catalan society as a consequence of their politics and increasing Europeanisation, whilst in Spain, the language debate brings up questions of identity and power on the regional, national and international level (Hoffman 2001:50). When discussing how speakers use language, it is important to talk about both individuals and groups, as well as the relationships between people within and across different groups. One way of looking at this is focusing on speaker identities, as the term identity has been used in a handful of ways in the social sciences. My focus here is on how language constructs speaker identity. In the current social theory, identities are not particular attributes of people or groups, but they are dynamically constructed aspects which emerge through discourse and social behaviour (Wardhaugh & Fuller 2015:7). While using this theory to examine the Catalan question of independence I am primarily concerned with social identity, although the identities of individuals are still of importance. ‘Identity is defined as the linguistic construction of membership in one or more social groups or categories’ (Kroskrity 2000:111). With this perspective, identities are not simple categorized affiliations such as ‘child’ or ‘adult’, nor ‘female’ or ‘male’. Rather, identities are particular ways of being that we construct. For example, one may identify one’s self by using a certain list of identifiers; white, male, 30, teacher, athletic etc. However, in another social situation this person may introduce or refer to themselves as, for example, a father. Thus, he is specifically focusing on this aspect of his identity and therefore bringing forward a more particular image of who he is as a father- for example; protective, strict, perhaps encouraging within academics etc. Named social categories are not our identities but concepts we use to construct our identities (Wardhaugh & Fuller 2015:9).
Here I believe is an agreeable place in which to bring up The Whorfian hypothesis; the claim that is also often referred to as ‘Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis’ and is the argument that language is what directly influences the way that individuals think about and see the world. The theory suggests that the social categories that we create along with how we perceive events and actions are constrained by the language we speak. Therefore, speakers of a different language will experience situations and the world in general differently, as the languages they speak differ structurally (Wardhaugh & Fuller 2015:11). An argument that many of the Catalans who are for the separation from Spain use can be discussed using the Whorfian hypothesis. As the region of Catalonia’s official language is Catalan, everything in in Catalan before any other language. This means the television programmes, the news, ewspapers, road signs and most importantly the education system is in Catalan. The Catalans experience the world from their own cultural goggles. A protester told a reporter from the BBC during the 2017 protests in Barcelona – “I think, read, speak and dream in Catalan. If they take this away from me they take away who I am”. Anna Boll, a citizen of Catalonia told The Guardian newspaper in 2017 “Catalonia is a place with a deep tradition of co-operation and shared battles. It’s an identity forged from resistance to the adversity we have been subjected to in the past”.
Catalonia is often deemed a minority. When discussing self-identification and identification by others, the Catalan people have regarded themselves different in tradition, custom and language from the rest of Spain’s inhabitants, leading to resentment of being denied the autonomous status and recognition they have for so long sought after (Hoffman 2001:51). During the beginning of the twentieth century, Catalonia did experience two shorter periods of autonomy. During the period of oppression and prohibition for the Catalan language it became stigmatised as a mere dialect, and its speakers humiliated (Hoffman 2001:53). In a speech as President of Catalonia’s Autonomous Government on April 22nd190, Jordi Pujol stated that “If there is one objective that a Catalan government has to prioritize it is the defence, strengthening and projection of those things that mean that down the centuries, Catalonia has been Catalonia: it’s language, it’s culture, the experience of its history, sentiment and the collective consciousness, the defence of its political right, the will to be…” (Crameri 2004:2).
The general idea of what constitutes of being Catalan is – being Catalan means speaking Catalan. However, these days it is not quite as simple as all that for the Catalans. If one were to apply this theory today, then roughly only a third of the inhabitants in Catalonia would qualify, due to the fact that around half the population in Catalonia are immigrants from other parts of Spain. The Catalan people do not benefit from this particular theory as most of the immigrants in Catalonia consider it their home, and the autonomous government needs their support (Hoffman 2001:63). This could encourage Spanish speakers to put forward their language as ‘the first language’ of Catalonia if they feel as though they are not welcomed as Catalans. Today, anyone who lives and works in Catalonia is regarded as Catalan, however this makes it harder for the Catalans to argue for the development and sustaining of their language (Gibson 2012). In 2017 the guardian newspaper produced a series of videos on Youtube called ‘I am Catalan’. The idea behind these videos was to give the Catalan people a platform on which to speak for themselves as individuals and why Catalan independence was important to them personally, rather than being categorized in a group by a biased media outlet. One of the subjects stated in his video that his will for independence had started with the want to protect and preserve his cultural heritage and traditions, although now the situation had turned his focus more to the idea independence for Catalonia means breaking out of a system that they do no longer want to be a part of. He told The Guardianthat the feeling of loneliness and rejection that so many Catalans feel from their host state, Spain, only “enforces their desire to get out of there and break up the relationship” (The Gaurdian 2017).
With regards to identity, it is important during this discussion to understand that the Catalan people do not all have the same identity just as all English people do not have the same identity. The subject explains that many of the Catalan people have different opinions on what independence means for them, his personal opinion being that – “if the easiest way to separate from the Franco legacy is independence-can one really say no?”. (The Guardian 2017). The one common theme however amongst all Catalans wishing for independence is their language, and how they are identified as a people, and as individuals through this language. This begs the question; can an individual be Catalan and Spanish at the same time? Writer Fernando Sanchez Drago says that “The Spaniard is the only human being who’s always unsure about his identity. An Englishman or a German will have no problem being English or German, but a Spaniard is always at odds with himself”, he goes onto explain that this is the unfortunate reason for Spain having a high record of civil wars throughout history (Gibson 2012). “We are between a rock and a hard place” says one subjects of the series ‘I am Catalan’, “it is not a question of pride, or identity. It’s just a very practical question; What is best for our kids? Who will help us form the better society?” (The Guardian 2017).
It is often presumed that there is a high correlation between having been born in Catalonia and having Catalan parents, on one hand, and supporting radical nationalist options on the other (Crameri 2014:40). To some degree, this is true, in 2011 Ivan Serrano carried out a study which showed that those who identify as solely Catalan, or at least much more Catalan than Spanish are definitely more likely to think that Catalonia should be an independent country (Crameri 2014:40). Many argue that nationalism not just in Catalonia but in other parts of the world, is a result of modernization and industrialization. Gellner writes that nationalism is a response to industrialization and peoples disengagement from primordial ties to kin, religion and local communities (Gellner 1983) and that this is a functional sort of replacement for older ideologies and social organization. The Catalans pro-independence feel as though they have a connection with those they do not even know personally, however share the same language and the same cultural ties, therefore bringing them together (BBC News).
As a nationalist, one is loyal to a legislative system and a state which represents one’s “peoples”, not individuals that one knows personally (Gellner 1983).

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Speech communities and Language inequality

One can define a speech community by saying that the speakers in such a community share some kind of common feeling about linguistic behaviour in that community, meaning that they observe particular linguistic norms (Wardhaugh & Fuller 2015:65). A common argument used in other parts of Spain and by the Spanish government about Catalan is that if they were to accept Catalan being a dominant native language in the region, then it would be unfair to the other regions of Spain, for example the Basque region. However, as writer Michael Tree states in an interview during the troubles of 2012, ‘the Catalans are the only group that actually have a live, active linguistically differentiated culture’. Former president of Catalonia Jordi Pujol, states that – “The Catalans believe and respect the framework of Spain, however we are not like the others because we have our own language and our own political interests”.
Here I bring up the topic of sociolinguistics. Sociolinguistics is the study of language use within or among groups of speakers (Wardhaugh & Fuller 2015:63). The study of speech communities is of great value to the understanding of the human language and interpretation. The communities are groups that share values and attitudes about the practice of their language. We are born with the ability to learn languages, although we do so within cultures and societies which frame the process of learning how to talk to others (H. Morgan 2014:1). I do not study the concept of speech communities by simply stating that all groups must speak the same language, instead I study it as a concept that language represents, constructs and constitutes a purposeful participation in society and culture. If one approaches the topic by applying the theory that speech communities are recognized as distinctive in relation to other speech communities (H. Morgan 2014:3), then one can try to understand the argument for the Catalan people not defining themselves as Spanish due to their different mother tongue languages. A large number of the critical arguments regarding speech communities hold two contrasting perspectives of how to define language and discourse; one being the analysis and description of linguistic semantic and conversational feature that are gathered from a group and are in turn deemed to be stable indicators of that speech community (H. Morgan 2014:5). The other focuses on how language can be used to represent ideology and construct relationships, otherwise known as the Foucauldian discourse analysis; a form of discourse analysis focusing on power relationships in society mainly expressed though languages and practices. My focus is on the latter.

Table of contents :

1. INTRODUCTION 
2. METHODS 
2.1 PURPOSE AND RESEARCH QUESTION
2.2 METHOD AND THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
3. THE CATALAN INDEPENDENCE DEBATE 
3.1 DEVELOPMENTS THROUGH THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
3.2 CATALONIA AFTER THE DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION
4. THE POLITICS OF LANGUAGE 
4.1 THE CATALAN LANGUAGE
4.2 LANGUAGE AND SOCIAL IDENTITY
4.3 SPEECH COMMUNITIES AND LANGUAGE INEQUALITY
4.4 LANGUAGE, POLITICS, ECONOMICS AND POWER
5. CONCLUSION 
5.1 SUMMARY OF THEORETICAL ARGUMENTS
5.2 FINAL CONCLUSION

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