Spain: A Pyrrhic Victory

Sept 19, 2017 - by André Lecours, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa

The Catalan government has planned a referendum on independence for October 1. The Spanish government considers such referendum illegal, and Spanish courts have invalidated the Catalan legislation enabling the referendum. The choice of the Spanish government not to allow Catalans to vote on their political future effectively prevents any possibility of secession in the short term, but at what cost?

The refusal by the Spanish government to discuss self-determination issues with Catalonia has already led to Catalan nationalism making a turn from autonomism to secessionism between 2010 and 2012. The position that Spain is indivisible and that no popular consultation on self-determination is constitutional has alienated many Catalans who historically felt as much Spanish as Catalan.

There are two possible scenarios for October 1. If the Spanish government is really heavy-handed (seizing voting booths, indicting mayors for allowing their city buildings to be used as voting stations, etc…), there is a possibility that no vote is held or that no result is known. The second scenario is a replay of the 2014 consultation: a vote is held but most Catalans opposing independence boycott the referendum, leading to a result showing massive support for the independence option but with a very low voter turnout.  Whichever scenario plays out, Catalonia is likely to be left in limbo and Spain no further ahead.


Nationalist and xenophobic movements in North America and Europe should learn from post-war citizenship narratives of inclusion and reconstruction

August 17, 2017  - by Dr. Helga Hallgrimsdottir, University of Victoria

The recent resurgence of nationalist and xenophobic movements in North America and Europe has in part been powered by the deployment of particular narratives of the past, especially narratives about migration, settlement, and belonging. Yet, Europe’s experience in the post-war period shows that narratives of the past can also be used to foster inclusion and new readings of citizenship. Similarly, the Truth and Reconciliation process in Canada may also show a way forward through how rethinking past historical narratives can forge a pathway towards a meaningful politics of inclusion.

One of the major steps towards the rethinking of past historical narratives is to facilitate an intercultural dialogue about how narratives of the past – or the politics of memory - can influence current political choices and policy decisions, and how we can talk more effectively about the past – as scholars, teachers, and citizens – in ways to foster more inclusive readings of the present.

Narratives of Memory, Migration, and Xenophobia: Intercultural Dialogues” is an international symposium at the University of Victoria. It aims at stimulating public discussions with academics and artists on the central themes of the project. The conference is open to public and takes place on August 24/25th.