Identities on the Move

by Flocel Sabaté (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 515 Pages


This book contains selected papers from the meetings «To think the Identity» and «Identities on the move» held in the Institute for Research into Identities and Society (University of Lleida) during 2010. The aim is to understand the reasons that allow social cohesion throughout the creation of identities and its adaptation. Identity is individual and collective, momentary and secular, apparently contradictory terms that can only coexist and fructify if they entail a constant adaptation. Thus, in a changing world, the identities are always on the move and the continuity of society requires a permanent move. Values, Culture, Language and History show the societies in permanent evolution, and demand an interdisciplinary perspective for studying. Attending this scope, outstanding historians, sociologists, linguistics and scientists offer here a diachronic and interdisciplinary approach to this phenomenon: how men and women have been combining the identity and the move in order to feel save into a social life from Middle Ages to current days, and how different items, in our present society, built the framework of identities.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Editor
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Identities on the move: Flocel Sabaté
  • 1. The mirage of national identity
  • 2. The human being in a collective identity
  • 3. The human being in society: Identity, memory and ideology
  • 4. Identities are always on the move
  • 5. The Humanities and Social Sciences before their research subject
  • 6. The Institute for Research on Identities and Society
  • Travelling in the Orbis Christianus and beyond (Thirteenth – Fifteenth Century): What makes the difference?: Felicitas Schmieder
  • De aquestes raons de la Senyora, los apòstols e Magdalena e les altres dones prengueren molta consolació: Establishing Female Identity through the Virgin’s words in the Vita Christi of Sor Isabel de Villena: Lesley Twomey
  • 1. The Virgin as an active participant in words and deed at the Passion
  • 2. The Virgin’s autonomy to initiate devotions: the Virgin speaks as spiritual leader
  • 3. The Teaching Virgin: the Virgin as Doctoressa
  • 4. The power of the Virgin: she commands and the elements obey
  • Conclusion
  • Annexe
  • Bibliography
  • Les juifs portugais à Recife 1630–1654. Un modèle évanescent?: Gérard Nahon
  • 1. Immigration, insertion, économie, urbanisation, tolérance
  • 2. La collectivité religieuse
  • 3. Le corps économique, social et militaire
  • 4. L’exode et ses retombées
  • Conclusion
  • Le tracé de l’identité européenne de l’Espagne aux Pays Baltes: Kaspars Klavins
  • 1. Le folklore et la mythologie
  • 2. L’unité culturelle de l’Europe médiévale
  • 3. Les Jésuites
  • 4. Le rôle de Bartolomé de Las Casas dans la formation de l’Etat social dans la Baltique et les mythes de l’assujettissement
  • The construction of Spanish national identity: Juan Sisinio Pérez
  • 1. Introduction and initial considerations
  • 2. History and historians: national memory and the country’s thinkers
  • 3. State, history and civic allegiances
  • 4. Spanish identity and historiographical essentialism
  • 5. By way of an epilogue: Spain’s identity on the crossroads of political legitimacy
  • Spain/ France: Reciprocal Images during the Restoration Period (1875–1931): Paul Aubert
  • 1. Dominant images and stereotypical representations
  • 1.1 Complot on this side of the Pyrenees, repression on the other
  • 1.2 The Ghost of the French Revolution
  • 1.3 Distinction, perversion or French morals?
  • 2. Always a fruitful myth in spite of France’s loss of influence
  • 2.1 A decadent France
  • 2.2 1914–1918: The reasons for Francophilia
  • 2.3 The spirit of 1789
  • Conclusion
  • Identities on the Move, Foreign and Colonial Students in France (20th century – 1960s): Caroline Barrera
  • 1. The various identities of foreign and colonial students: individuals and foreign policy
  • 1.1 France and foreign and colonial students
  • 1.2 What was at stake at an international level, regarding student mobility
  • 2. Trengthening or transforming identity through mobility
  • 2.1 The student’s journey as an act of resistance
  • 2.2 The student journey as an act of emancipation
  • 2.3 Modalities for strengthening identity in a foreign land
  • 3. A Host-country-proof identity
  • 3.1 A rejected identity, later confirmed
  • 3.2 An instrumentalized identity
  • 3.3 An asimilated identity
  • Conclusion
  • Literature and Shows of Modern Customs in Catalan. “Ethnotypism” and the creation of some modern imaginary of popular catalanity: Joaquim Capdevila, Teresa Serés And Sònia Rubió
  • 1. Introductory notes. The modern customist literature in Catalan
  • 2. The first stage of the modern customist literature and shows in Catalan: between the tens and thirties of the Twentieth Century. Its generative framework and basic definitions
  • 2.1 Modern customism in the popular shows and literature. General issues about its sociogenesis and the key to its popular success
  • 2.1.2 The keys to success
  • 2.2 The first stage of modern customism in Catalan. Its generative framework
  • 2.2.1 The worsening of the crisis of the community traditional conceptions. The community crisis of the city
  • 2.2.2 The consolidation of the Catalan ‘renaissance’
  • 2.3 The first stage of modern customism in Catalan. Its topics, fields and expressive genres
  • 3. Literature and shows in Catalan in the Twentieth Century and modern ethnotypism
  • 3.1 Basic traditions of the modern ethnotypical literature in the Twentieth Century Catalonia
  • 3.1.1 Ethnotypical literature and shows in Catalan since the sixties of the Twentieth Century: personal gazes – the first authors’ gazes – in the ethnotypical definition of the social reality. Personalization of the ethnotypical identities
  • 3.1.2 The ethnotypism crisis in the popular literature and shows in Catalan
  • 3.2 The definition of some modern imaginary of popular catalanity
  • 4. Scenic Catalan literature and recreation of types in an ethnic or national catalanity. Factors for ethnic types
  • 4.1 Symbolic references of ethnic types. Essay about the elements of a popular imaginary of ethnic or national types of catalanity
  • 5. Cultural expressions in the Catalan literature from the end of the Nineteenth Century to the present times
  • 5.1 The Catalan “cuplet”
  • 5.2 Populist theatre in Catalan in the twenties and thirties. Popular theatre with social topics
  • 5.3 Social Realistic Poetry
  • 5.3.1 A rural-themed modern realistic poetry
  • 5.4 La Nova Cançó
  • 5.4.1 La Nova Cançó. The satirical song of customs
  • 5.4.2 The Nova Cançó. The festive cançó and the cuplet
  • 5.5 Customist satire and humour. Capri’s monologues
  • Epilogue: customism versus folk song and ‘popular culture’ in the ethical recreation of some sense of catalanity
  • Questions of artistic and personal identity in the interwar poetry of J.V. Foix: Montserrat Roser
  • Annexe
  • Bibliography
  • Exile in Mexico and Catalan identity. Catalonia in the imaginarium of first generation exiles in Mexico (1939–2005): Josep M. Figueres
  • Introduction
  • 1. Aim
  • 2. Origin of emigration to Mexico
  • 3. L’Orfeó Català (Catalan Choral Society)
  • 4. The contingent of refugees
  • 5. Fact-finding
  • 6. Culture, in other words identity
  • 7. Publishing houses founded by Catalans or with their participation
  • 8. Editorial motivation for publishing in Catalan in Mexico
  • 9. Production and consumption
  • 10. Chronology of the exile
  • 11. Identity and exile
  • 12. Feeling of struggle and rebellion, which we detect in many of the interviews
  • 13. Integration in Mexico
  • Malika Mokeddem or the Recreation of a New Mestization: Maria Carme Figuerola
  • “In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong” by Amin Maalouf; a reflection on the notion of identity: Pere Solà
  • Annexe
  • Bibliography
  • Web references
  • Will Major Languages Ruin Minor Languages? English and Chinese vs. Catalan and Occitan: Joan Julià-Muné
  • Introduction
  • 1. Languages in contact, languages in combat
  • 2. The English(es)
  • 3. Where is English spoken?
  • 4. Where does English / do Englishes stand?
  • 5. A greater China and the chiglobalization
  • 6. Where does Chinese stand?
  • 7. Will Mandarin then take the lead?
  • 8. Catalan
  • 9. Where does Catalan stand?
  • 10. (Aranese) Occitan
  • 11. Where does Occitan stand?
  • Conclusion
  • Annexe
  • Bibliography
  • Web References
  • Languages, links and identities in a society on the move: M. Carme Junyent
  • Annexe
  • Websites
  • Changing rural identity. Discourses on rurality in catalan schools: Teresa Sala, Lluís Samper And Xavier Burrial
  • Introduction
  • 1. Moving beyond the rural-urban dichotomy
  • 2. Methodological questions
  • 3. Some images, evaluations and identities associated with “new” rurality
  • Final reflections
  • Annex: Characteristics of the focus groups
  • Webgraphy
  • Aging as Continuity and Change: Age as Personal and Social Transformation: Roberta Maierhofer
  • Individuals in front of individualities: an identities’ conflict: Jorge Wagensberg
  • 1. The notion of progress and economy
  • 2. The notion of identity and sociology
  • Talking the talk? Language and Identity in the European Soap Opera: Hugh O’Donnell
  • Introduction
  • 1. The British Case: Early Soap Operas
  • 2. The Emergence of the ‘British Model’
  • 3. The Soap Opera in Western Europe
  • 4. The British Model Abroad
  • 5. A Subcategory: The Language Policy Model
  • 6. The Neoliberal Model
  • Conclusion
  • L’imagologie face à la question de l’identité: Daniel-Henri Pageaux
  • Annexe
  • Bibliographie
  • Quelle identité européenne? Sentiments d’appartenance et représentations de l’Europe en mouvement dans la construction européenne: Thibault Courcelle
  • 1. Une identité difficile à définir qui ne fait pas consensus
  • 2. Les institutions européennes confrontées à la question de l’identité européenne pour leurs élargissements
  • 3. L’identité européenne se forge-t-elle par la citoyenneté européenne?
  • Conclusion
  • Multi-culturalism or Many-colours-ism The ‘Colours’ of the Presidents Obama and Khama: Maria Saur
  • 1. Cultural comprehension
  • 2. Multi-culturalism or Many-Colours-ism? Identitiés Transnationales or Mixed Heritages?
  • 3. The Invention of Race
  • 4. The ethno-psychoanalytical discours
  • Notes
  • Les mutations du racisme contemporain: Michel Wieviorka

Identities on the move


Universitat de Lleida

Identity has become a leading subject of research in the humanities and social sciences, thus moving the epicentre of scientific interest to the catalyzing term of the axes that articulate social cohesion and, at the same time, the relation with otherness. Identity is individual and collective, momentary and secular, apparently contradictory term that can only coexist and fructify if they entail a constant adaptation. So, identity claims to strengthen cohesion through appealing to permanence and the continuity, even though these are only upheld by adaptation and renovation. In short, identities on the move.

1.The mirage of national identity

The déclaration des droits de l’Homme et du citoyen from the 26th of August 1789 begins as a declaration by les représentants du Peuple français, contitués en Assemblée nationale.1 Similarly, in 1776, the representatives of the thirteen United States of America based their declaration of independence from the Crown of Great Britain on the “Right of the People”.2 These expressions of a sovereign collective will were taken as a true turning point from earlier times when the inhabitants assumed their role as mere subjects of the sovereign.

In fact, immediately the collective identity, under the national expression, was nothing more than an attempt to strengthen itself by adopting the appropriate symbology. If the first clause of the 1791 French ← 9 | 10 → constitution indicated that il sera établi des fêtes nationales pour conserver le souvenir de la Révolution française, entretenir la fraternité entre les citoyens, et les attacher à la Constitution, à la patrie et aux lois,3 all the 19th century was a succession in search of elements of memory to preserve the common identity.4 The national pantheons,5 the national museums,6 the national archives7 or the national symbology expressed by the building of numerous monuments embedded in the landscape,8 were no less than an attempt to articulate and maintain a story of national identity, with specific attention to the shared imaginary,9 an identity that was born in the distant past and became progressively strongers. Therefore, surrounded by paintings in the staterooms in the Historic Museum of Versailles in 1835, Victor Schoelcher could exclaim, l’Histoire est la chose importante, l’occupation du siècle.10

In fact, since Herder it has been assumed that the collective identity extends through time, thanks to a specific force that vivifies a soul strongly defined by language and humanistic creation, to such an extent that there is no citizenship without this previous national identity.11 As a historic route, the collective identity can enjoy not only a begin ← 10 | 11 → ning but a clear teleology, as it is experienced by an America sure of sharing a Manifest Destiny.12 The cohesive traits and arguments invoked 13 will vary depending on the area,14 but in all cases they move towards the cohesion of collective identities under the invocation of the nation.15 All individuals take part in an ideal identity shared and backed up by the historical memory which, in order to strengthen the indelibly shared traits, incorporates an alleged common tradition16 and a heroic memory, concordant with the aspired popular affiliation, that often more than kings and noble, recalls bourgeois and the simple people who shared these common ideals in the past.17

Therefore, in all the cases, the individual is included in a national identity which not only deserves, but also can demand all the respects, including the supreme sacrifice of one’s own life. The Horatian maxim dulce et decorum pro patria mori18 becomes the supreme currency of cohesion. The landscapes is filled with monuments that strengthen the common unit by remembering those who died for the ideal of the nation, as in the United States immediately after the Civil War,19 in France during the transition from the 19th to the 20th century following the growing remembrance of the Franco-Prussian War, and in Great Britain with the roles of honour erected in memory of those fallen in the Boer War. ← 11 | 12 →

The tensions in the first half of the 20th century consolidated the invocations of the national cohesion. The new order established after the First World War was even presented as a liberation of the nations20 such as the ones in Central European.21 However, at this stage one can imagine other transversal vectors with which to try and rally society.

This is the challenge that the more utopian approaches channeled, presented not as an escape route but rather as a real place in which to organize harmonious societies,22 just as had been claimed for when new lands (and peoples) appeared.23 Very significantly, the utopian roots in the late-medieval proposals24 and in the Renaissance expressions25 about ideal cities26, not by chance, but rather because the city was then envisaged as the social structure par excellence.27 With full continuity, the 19th century’s challenges made it easier to rewrite the utopia to provide new vectors with which to articulate the social identity.28 The ideal of cohesion had to be centred on the society. This is the reason why it was so easy for a utopian proposal to adapt specific socialist proposals for cohesion.29 ← 12 | 13 →

The socialist approaches formally renewed the vector of cohesion, which was not orientated towards preserving and perpetuating the perennial national identity, but rather towards the solidarity of social class.30 Although, in the places where real socialism has been put into practice, actually, the social and political structures have not respected this vector of cohesion.31 Invocations of the national have even been grafted onto this, as a sort of “national-communism”.32 This evolution could have been facilitated by the identification between nation and state and by the temptation to the usurp the use of this, as Benedict Anderson comments, precisely due to the contradiction which the ideal socialist societies fall into,

[…] le modèle du nationalisme officiel n’est jamais plus pertinent qu’au moment où les révolutionnaires parviennent à s’emparer de l’État, et où, pour la première fois, ils sont en position d’user de ses pouvoirs au service de leurs visions.33

Assuming this validity and permanence of national identity, Caspar Hirschi recently has asked himself about the roots, especially in the German case. His conclusions do not point to the formulations in the 18th and 19th centuries but rather to other deeper ones, situated between Ancient Rome and the end of the Modern Era, used precisely as a legacy brought down to the contemporary centuries. Hence, he can conclude that, “Nationalism […] was created and cherished by major and minor political thinkers who lived in Western European countries between the fifteenth and the twentieth centuries”.34

The question that arises is clear: maybe the subjects of the Ancient Regime were not mere subjects, was there not a series of shared identities in each territory, which they felt part of? ← 13 | 14 →

2.The human being in a collective identity

Actually, if one wants to perceive the globality of the path, the term should not be nationalism but rather collective identity. The truth is that the human being has never been alone, and only acquires a meaning from their social insertion. Membership of a group precedes individuality. In the Middle Ages, a human being was certainly never alone: he was always part of a feudal link, of a municipal solidarity, of an urban group.35 For this reason the answers were never individual: in case of grievances not solved by the ordinary justice, the juridical order would apply legal mechanisms so one could proceed against any member of the accused group, by seizing property36 or even with an armed intervention by the popular militias.37

This state was already well known by the historiography about the medieval period, which had insisted on the intensity of the social and territorial solidarities. These, on the Middle Ages, not only had shaped the society and the suitable space for the men and women but had determined all the facets of the power38. Very significantly, the historiography had also noted that social, ecclesiastical, local and any other kind of associations, belong, during the late Middle Ages, to a participative models, well justified by the philosophical and theological meanings39.

Within this background, the solidarity of the group was preferred to the legal guarantees of the growing state structures. The governments, assisted by their Romanist jurists and the Church had to work hard to repeat, during the late medieval centuries, as in the Catalan town of Valls in 1357, that ← 14 | 15 →

[…] per ço són possats los senyors per les ciutats, per les viles e per los calls e.ls són dades les rendes per tal que deffenen los lurs sotmesos e façen justίcia als mals faytor, car hivaç seria espatgat lo món si los uns se podien pendre venjança dels altres, que no sperasen senyor qui u fes.40

As the bishop of Vic remarked in 1345, the divine order wants the differences to be submitted to the auctoritatem iuris vel iudicis.41 So, it is intended that people go through the ordinary legal system, which is guaranteed by the sovereign, instead of trusting in the solidarity of the group. However, the reason why the authority enjoys this power is found in the pact between the prince and the population, as we have shown was so spontaneously stated in the small town of Valls during the middle years of the 14th century: taxation was not based on mere obedience to the lord but rather because he, in return, would offer protection and justice. The medieval power was defined as a pact between the lord and the respective group.

In fact, group solidarities were part of the anthropological structure of medieval society. So, the rulers did not try to eliminate them, but rather to appease the tensions they caused and channel them to areas of their domain. The municipal governments would try to impose truces and peace and the sovereign governments would claim to hold a supreme position, as guarantors of peace.42 The concatenation of circles of solidarity was seen as the best combination from the point of view of the power: one moves according to the band one belongs to, but at the same time the members of different bands shared the same solidarity as citizens. Also, even if they sometimes confronted each other, various places shared the same solidarity because they were part of the same jurisdiction. These jurisdictions should concatenate under a common sovereign. The fixing of the frontiers between monarchies throws up clear examples: traditionally many Catalan centres had links with the monastery of La Grassa,43 naturally generating a mixing of ← 15 | 16 → clergy from different origins. At the end of the 13th century, Ramon Muntaner believed this to be dangerous, because the territories belonged to different monarchies: los senyors d’Espanya farien gran saviesa que en llur terra no soferissen que hagués prelat si llur natural no era. This was clear in 1285, because during the invasion by the King of France, the clergy born on his territory would join his side despite living in Catalan lands, telling the French King: senyor, jo e aquests altres monges som naturals de vostra terra e naturals vostres.44

The goal of the sovereign was to organise the feudal monarchies so that the king occupied the peak of the feudal pyramid, and at the same time, the monarchies would be national, so only one sovereign ruled over the members of a nation.45 The medieval nation was an identity, not a political identity but rather a cultural one: the citizens of a nation were those who shared everyday attitudes and common cultural practices. In the 14th century, when Francesc Eiximenis compared the Catalan nation to the others, he pointed out different collective behaviour in such insignificant and everyday aspects, as the Catalans

[…] tallen la carn netament e polida, guardant-li lo tall qui és varieja per diverses carns en diverses maneres, e la mengen en tallador netament. E les altres nacions, així com a franceses, alemanys, angleses e itàlics, ne fan trossos,

and la nació catalana en son menjar comú e en sos convits ha covinent vi e d’aquell pren covinentment sens excés comunament or that la nació catalana era eximpli de totes les altres gents cristianes en menjar honest e en temprat beure, in contrast to

[…] altres nacions van a menjar ab gran brogit e mengen ab gran gatzara e ab poc nodriment or even that les altres nacions quan serveixen a menjar mostren la carn, així com castellans o portugaleses, o mostren les anques nues car les llurs faldes són fort curtes, axí com se fan los franceses, car així mateix amaguen la cara ab lo caperó estret.46 ← 16 | 17 →

Of all the cultural traits, the main identifier was the language: nation, people, and language mixed together easily. In 1471, the Bishop of Girona, Joan Margarit demonstrated this when talking about gents e nations castellans, portuguesos, francesos, gascons, tudeschs, prohensals, ytalians e a totes altres lengües e pobles.47 Since the end of the 13th century, this identification between language and nation has led to exhibitions of “linguistic nationalism”. This, in a clear way, led to the imposition of English as the language of the Kingdom of England, to the detriment of the regional languages, especially of the more prestigious French. Language, therefore, stands out of among the everyday traits that define the group and that facilitate the acceptance of small elements that establish differences with the neighbouring otherness.48 The reiterative invocation of the Hundred Years’ War for the national cohesion of England and France entailed the mutual identification of the respective cultural and linguistic traits, in a way proof against the confrontation with the other.49 The cultural items shared a common feeling. King Peter the Ceremonious surprised that the Judge of Arborea in Sardinia have revolted against him because this he was educated in Catalonia and thus learned to amar la nostra nació50.

Hence, during the Late Middle Ages the external perception of collective identities was strengthened, as was a corresponding internal awareness at the same time. It is coherent that Christian ethics relate justice and the common good (ipsa iustitia legalis est determinata virtus habens speciem de hoc quod intendit ad bonum commune in Thomas Aquinas’ words51) and, in fact, the 13th century supposed an important intellectual reflection about the common good.52 As the same Thomas ← 17 | 18 → Aquinas continues, bonum commune melius est quam bonum particulare unius; substrahendum est igitur bonum particulare ut conservetur bonum comune.53 Through the Romanist jurists, the argument identifying the common good and the public good spread, because profit públic val mes que privat.54 Thus transformed into justification of the political positioning, throughout the Late Middle Ages the common good was explicitly invoked by kings,55 nobles56 and, especially, the communal governments.57 While for the first two, the reference to the common good was especially rooted in their own virtues, in the end, they based the legitimacy of power on the Christian duty of applying the government and imparting justice,58 for the municipal groups it was linked to the assumption of their own collective personality.59

Certainly, Roman law,60 Aristotelianism61 and Late Middle-Age Christianity62 established a collective social vision, where the appropriate place for the human being was communities such as the urban ← 18 | 19 → ones,63 giving a new meaning to the classical tradition.64 By understanding these as natural and originary entities, it was assumed that they had arisen early in the origin of the world and, therefore, the consensus between the members of a group was the origin of power, which, by agreement, was yielded to the corresponding prince, and not the other way round. Authors such as Baldus de Ubaldo65 or Marsilio de Padova66 based this collective power, with some ideas that reached all the levels of society, on the work of mendicants such as the Franciscans, who supported the Christian market economy so characteristic of the urban Late Middle Ages.67 Francesc Eiximenis, the great influence in the Crown of Aragon, is clear when stating that,

[…] cascuna comunitat per son bon estament e per son millor viure elegís viure sots senyoria, que cascun pot presumir que cascuna comunitat féu ab sa pròpia senyoria patis e convencions proffitosos e honorables per si matexa principalment, e aprés que aquell o per aquells a qui donà la potestat de son regiment.

There is no doubt that the primacy is situated in the group and not in the lordship: car la comunitat no alagí senyoria per amor del regidor, mas elegí regidor per amor de si matexa.68

So, there is a clear political duality, including the fact the parliaments stopped being an assembly of subjects that assisted the respective lord but became a representative chamber of the estates against the ← 19 | 20 → king.69 The duality was formulated explicitly. In Castile in 1479 it was said that entre el rey y el reino calladamente está fecho un contrato, por el cual cada uno dellos está obligado a conplir aquellas cosas a que el derecho le obliga.70 Thus the kingdom had an identity of its own, owed to the population or, in other words, based on the land. This is exactly the term that was expressively used in one of the most emblematic cases, that of the Crown of Aragon. Here, a monarch with little income and jurisdiction, was unable to compensate for his weakness with preeminent regal discourses71, and had to give concessions to the estates. These, not only looked after their own group but presented a joint front, claiming to represent the land, the terra and concerned about the whole country lo general.72 After 1365 the duality was recognised explicitly with the consolidation of a permanent representative institution, the Diputacions del General linked to each of the three territories of the Crown (Catalonia, Aragon and Valencia), a kind of permanent and stable representation of the courts and as duality of government, presenting themselves before the king in the name of the terra.73

This duality was the true heritage of the Middle Ages. After this, there was a struggle around Europe under different parameters between the mixed monarchy (from the duality of the king and the country) and moving towards absolutist formulas.74 Hence, there was no teleologi ← 20 | 21 → cal movement towards the Europe of the absolutist monarchies, but rather various possibilities of structuring around participative formulas,75 continuing the medieval approach that based coexistence on a pact between the groups with power.76

The political approach also affects the specific relation between the individuals and the social group, because the relation between the individual and society conditions the political understanding and practice. Under the medieval perception, the community was the intrinsic and natural place for the human being, in line with the Aristotelian πολίτιχον ζώον: citizen man, if translated literally.77 If the city is one of the natural elements, as Aristotle explicitly stated78 and as the medieval social model developed, the human being only has the reason for being in the “common good”. The values and symbology inherent to group pertinence continued in the centuries following the Middle Ages.79 It could not be otherwise given the dynamism of the estates, municipal entities, religious brotherhoods and trade guilds, among others, continuing the structuring and collective perception of society.80 However, the medieval roots of thought, which only conceived the human being inside a group, contrasts with the image that has lasted through the modern centuries that opposes the individual and the state.81 The latter will seek power identified with princes who fulfil their claim to achieve discourses and governmental means to guarantee not only the pact but also the submission of the citizens.82 Thus, things moved towards power ← 21 | 22 → in the style of Leviathan,83 where sacrifices of individual freedom become necessary to make coexistence possible,84 as both liberal and socialist currents would later accept.85

However, through different ways, at the end of the 18th century, there was an experience of community life. This meant that everything that happened from that moment on would not be a simple outpouring of the discovery of the group, referred to as the nation, which would substitute cohesion based on loyally following the monarch, but was rather the end of a long conceptual way. This set of reasons has been constantly renewed, through resources built around identity, justifying this by a specific memory, and linking this with a certain ideology.

3.The human being in society: Identity, memory and ideology

Between the 12th and 15th centuries the progressive awareness of the individual identity was highlighted.86 By the 12th century, the renovation spread by the acceptance of Roman law provided the legal elements that singularised the individual, including his rights, duties and responsibilities,87 coinciding with a clear individualised formulation in troubadour poetry88 or in the emerging novel.89 The religious reform ← 22 | 23 → followed the same evolution. This is shown by the 4th Lateran council in 1215, when the annual individual confession was explicitly imposed, with all that implied in terms of the acceptance of conscience and individual responsibility.90 The scholastic reflections and spiritual practices went deeper into the individual’s definition, perception, responsibility and capacity.91 At the same time, the medieval mystics opened explicit ways towards a clear mirada interior,92 concordant with the evolution in the Late Middle Ages. So, here we can appreciate, in a wide experiential range, the forming of individual attitudes,93 as expressed literally94 and the way these were reflected on the attitudes imposed on religion95 and artistic creation, well reflected on the treatment of authorship.96 Thus, the individual definition was globally well assumed, which implies an assumption of the body and the soul,97 giving significance to the gesture and the appearance,98 in assimilation of cultural and literary99 references.

The set allows the conscious assumption of les marqueurs de l’individuation,100 incorporating the different aspects of behaviour that ← 23 | 24 → define one’s own position in a specific social framework.101 Hence, when approaching the archaeology of the subject around the naissance du sujet, it is possible to appreciate its consolidation in the philosophical awareness102 and in the Late Middle Age experiential practice, always within a clear social context.103

The relatives, structured as a lineage,104 clearly frame the individual and immediately place him in social structures.105 The individual uses symbols that bond him to an identity group and against the otherness.106 Personal identity is only maintained through the social bond, which links ones and excludes the others. It is therefore necessary to be aware of this and remember it. Chrétien de Troyes presents the case of the knight from Leon, Porqant mes ne li sovenoit / De rien que onques eüst feite. /Les bestes par le bois agueite, / Si les ocit; et se manjue /La venison trestote crue.107 Therefore, for the human to behave as a human, he has to have a memory.

All the social groups define and establish their identity by sharing signs and identity references that also are memory points. Heraldry significantly took on this function from the 12th century on. During the following centuries, it would spread to singularize all the social groups.108 The shields would clearly identify the graves, which in turn converted ← 24 | 25 → certain monasteries and abbeys into places dedicated to the memory of lineages, whether royal, noble or bourgeois.109 The towns and cities of the Late Middle Ages accompanied their socio-economic development and political strengthening with signs of identity, banners and the communal seal.110 These would be shown in civic, festive and representative ceremonies, displaying, if necessary, the position of the municipality beside the prince or leading the popular militias.111

These elements contributed to establishing a common story for each solidarity unit. This tale became embedded in the history of humanity, which, at the time, coincided with the Christian history of salvation. With a lineal conception of time, where everything started when God created the world as described in Genesis and will end with the Parousia, as the Apocalypse cryptically annunciates, the human journey is reduced to following this path112. Therefore, the identitary tale should imply the memory of the earlier steps, rooted in a common beginning. The common memory will easily surface in the myth of the common origin. These are basic to outlining the destination. It is no coincidence that, at the end of the Middle Ages, there appeared many tree-shaped representations aiming at displaying the religious lineage of the saved, the governing dynasties, or the continuity, in some cases since the origin of the world, of prosperous families, nobility or bourgeoisie.113

Not only did the high medieval noble families seek to invoke Carolingian kinship, but they could also endorse that the Merovingians ← 25 | 26 → were descended from Priam, King of Troy,114 or as in the 14th century, Jean d’Arras could state that the Anjous, Berrys and Lusignans were descended from the fairy Melusina, fulfilling the prediction made to her, de toy viendra moult noble lignée qui sera grande et de haulte proesse115, and how numerous cities claimed to have been born in foundations that linked them to Troy or, even more, to Rome.116 The implications of these origins were sometimes immediate, as the reinforcement of the monarch of Leon117 and, later, by the Castilian king118 in his involvement with the Visigoth kings. Another implication is the linking of the sovereign of the Crown of Aragon to origins in the Emperor Charlemagne.119 In any case, noble origins ornament and unite society, which is why in a beginning there are heroes, as in William Tell’s Switzerland,120 brave ancestors, as in Sweden,121 or good rulers, as in Denmark.122 Origins that are not suitable for the intended dignity are explicitly rejected: in 1458 Pius II stated that los húngaros estableci ← 26 | 27 → dos en la ribera del Danubio son nación escítica, no descendiente de los hunos como algunos han creído por la afinidad de sus nombres.123

It is clear that without memory there is no common history, and without common history, if it can be followed since the origins, there is no unit of destiny. Linking unity and a cohesive historical story, we reach the conclusion by Bernard Guenée about the narrations since the 12th century, “the historians were who created the nations; there are any nation without national history”124

All tales have key interpretative arguments. The function of the medieval Church, as a depository of culture and memory, implied, at the same time, the administration of the worldview and the social order.125 The access to the consciences guarantees efficiency, as the Church proclaims and transmits,

‘Coms’, ditz lo Cardenals, ‘santa Gleiza’us somon/Que non aiatz temensa ni mala sopeison, / Que’ela a poder que’us tola e ha poder que’us don / e poder que.us defenda e poder que.us perdon;/e si bé la sirvetz auretz ne gazerdon.126

The Church’s leadership was based in its adaptability, which was not opportunism but rather the intellectual capacity to assimilate every era’s stimuli with an adequate ideological response. The theory of the three orders that rule the feudal system comes from the heart of the Church.127 Centuries later the same happen with the Christian social model of the market.128 The concepts evolved chronologically in practice. At the end ← 27 | 28 → of the 12th century in Lleida there was talk about un diable lo qual en semblanza de mercader se n’entra en una ciutat e procurava aquí tot mal que podia,129 but, at the end of the same century in Paris, we are reminded that Sainte Yglise premierement /fu par Marchéanz establie.130 At the same time the contemporary Ramon Llull showed the merchant as a model for living who, once his offspring are established, donates his wealth to the poor and passes onto a contemplative life,131 while century later, the Franciscan Eiximenis emphasised that among all the lay people, the merchants were those who nostre Senyor Déu los fa misericòrdia especial en mort e en vida per lo gran profit que fan a la cosa pública.132

Similarly in the Modern Era, the new ideological vectors covered the new socioeconomic challenges in the leading European countries of the time, as the historiography has shown, especially since Max Weber.133 Significantly, the 16th and 17th centuries are full of falsifications that endorsed the deep-rooted position of religious orders134 or lineages135. As Julio Caro Baroja wrote about the Spain at the time, various reasons lead to the falsification of the past,

[…] se mezcla una fe ardiente, unas ambiciones personales de tipo nobiliario, el peso de los prejuicios respecto a la pureza o limpieza de sangre, amor inmenso por la ciudad natal, patriotismo hispánico y erudición extensa, pero no crítica.136 ← 28 | 29 →

One way or another, it is remembered that recalling a historical memory, even if it may be false or recreated, is the basis for building identity, for both the group and the individual.

Identity, memory and ideology have therefore built the common roots in the West. And if we are able to overcome Western ethnocentrism, we will perceive similar behaviours in all human societies, not only because of the reiteration of common mythical origins in the research137 but also because, even in different societies, it is possible to appreciate hierarchical and social stratification mechanisms that appeal, in some way or another, to identity and comprehensive explanations about globality.138

Thus, the segmentation from the identities fragments all societies, but their apparent solidity entails justifying or ideological formulas of adaptability, which guarantee their continuity. So, we can assume that all social identities are always on the move.

4.Identities are always on the move

The continuity invoked by the discourses that are intended to sustain the various identities is balanced, therefore, by a reality adapted to the stimuli of each moment. As we have seen, the historical invocation shows identity as a monolithic reference that remarks the continuity from the origins, although a mere historical glance highlights the power of adaptation of the various ideologies as a guarantee of permanence, which actually entails remaking the justifying discourses to the tune of the new stimuli. The retention of power is situated, hence, in the capacity to adapt these discourses. ← 29 | 30 →

Precisely, the consolidation of identity has conduced to a specific outcome in the 20th century. The first half of the century confront an ideological dispute between identities that involved specific visions of the destiny of the world139, which led to a conflict of dramatic consequences. It was not only devastating but there also meant a loss of confidence in the human being140 to the discredit of paradigms of social and national cohesion141 and even paving the way to a new banal framework that not indifferent to pain.142 This rupture led to the recovery of the personal identities’ value, so ignored during the preceding decades,143 when it was only desired with a prophetic fear of a dark future, as Roger E. Lacombe confessed in 1937,

[…] il suffirait que la pensée personnelle survive en quelques esprits, il suffirait même qu’elle reste enfermée en quelques livres, échappés aux bûchers des dictatures, pour qu’en un lontain avenir une renaissance soit possible.144

At the same time ways for valuing the subject were opened,145 that is, of the person in themselves, the subject, during the second half of the 20th century, had to have to accentuate their ability to coexist, just at the moment when the improved techniques impose an acceleration in the exchange of information and a multiplication of contacts, that is to say, leading to a challenge for apparently diverse identities to live in increasing proximity. One believes we are living through an acceleration de l’histoire, as Halévy wrote in 1948,146 driven by what Robert Escarpit, ← 30 | 31 → in one of his short press releases in 1961, defined as le survoltage des circuits d’information, le dépassement des limites de sécurité au-delà des quelles l’ésprit éclate sous la pression de l’évenement.147

How is it possible to impose power on this society? If there is an increase in the contacts and, consequently, of the knowledge, there will soon arise the urge to control the circulation of ideas. This can attempting through controlling the information, as in the world predicted by George Orwell,148 or, on the contrary, the main strategy can be focused on an excess of information, which will trivialize, even discretely, everything really important, as Aldous Huxley envisaged.149 In fact, the avalanche of information, the new technical facilities and the acceleration of all kinds of exchanges started narrowing a world in the second half of the 20th century. Those who experienced it were aware of witnessing a process that promoted the masses to the elite and that grouped modernisation, secularisation and a growing proximity in all aspects: economy, values, communication, etc.150 Everything is lived more rapidly in a concatenated way: the spread of ideas, the transmission of events, and as a corollary to this, the revolutionary effects are immediate, in contrast with what could happen with the media in earlier centuries.151

A dense network is woven, which not only allows the establishment of a permanent exchange of information on a worldwide scale, as a true global village, in Marshall McLuhan’s famous expression,152 but also causes a growing mixing, i.e. that everything interrelates and comes together. A true single world economy is achieved,153 at the same time as political conflict is also defined on a planetary scale.154 The evolution ← 31 | 32 → during the last decade of the 20th century accelerated everything: the collapse of one of the two blocs155 opened the door to hasty declarations of global triumph.156 However, through the contradictory phenomena of order and disorder on the world stage, there is evidence of new challenges that bring a new world closer, which, in any case, will stand out for the breaking of old boundaries and development, in contrast, of the “new challenges to International Order” in which the fluidity of contacts of a membranous nature is evidenced, i. e. that they do not propose radical cuts but rather different levels of intersection in all aspects.157

Certainly, old rigidities give way to a more fluid new order in all aspects. The apparently clear old structures of social interpretation are overwhelmed by the closeness, contact and relation between heterogeneous social groups that, one way or another, are capable of claiming their own rights.158 It is not only about an interrelation – les Nations dépendent mutuellement les unes des autres à l’échelle mondiale159 – but also the self-same traits of common organization are modified. The international political order cannot continue invoking the old organisational parameters, as the European Union shows, which, from the application of the Schengen Treaty, leads to a permeability of frontiers that, in fact, breaks with the concept of frontiers and states established in Westphalia in 1648.160 Genetically, the global proximity even leads ← 32 | 33 → to accepting legal interferences for ideological, ethical or humanitarian reasons.161 Thus, reality, as the sociologist Manuel Castells said, has generated a “network society162 where the essential link is the redefinition of the reference identities: the “power of identity”.163

Highlighting, once more, the non-fulfilment of the long term predictions made in earlier decades,164 the society entering the new millennium emphasized the need for humans to graft their personal identity onto the collective identity of reference, justifying this, once again, in an alleged memory accepted by a certain ideology. So, the collapse of certain ideological vectors of cohesion at the end of the 20th century has enabled others to take off, which were supposed to have been surpassed, such as nationalism165 or religious fundamentalism.166 This happens through the interaction of globality, a reason to mix the concerns of those who fear the loss of the old prevailing values,167 up to the point of attempting to shield these institutionally, (as in France with the “Ministry of Immigration and National Identity”)168 and, on the contrary, the fears of those who see minor identities threatened because globality encourages the strongest up to the point of annihilating the weaker singularities.169

One way or another, an interaction between identities is shown that also stirs up both these senses in societies that clearly have to be defined ← 33 | 34 → as plural.170 La redéfinition des États-nations dans une perspective transnationale et transculturelle is gradually imposed, with the same power with which, at different levels, a société civile associationniste is imposed amongst clearly plural approaches.171 Even beyond the perception of the construction of a true multicultural citizenship,172 one can currently talk about, super-diversity.173 This modulates a society that gives new meanings to the old national, ethnic or religious references174 and that, consequently, provides a new appearance to the behaviour of each member of society.175 In fact, daily life becomes an exercise in “cultures on interaction”.176

The movement of the identities, at the pace of the accelerated contacts and with great degrees of complexity, is thus the central point for the definition and study of society.

5.The Humanities and Social Sciences before their research subject

The weight of the identity, memory and ideology in the social structures ultimately remits to power. The sensible and never quite remembered expression by Lewis Carroll about “the question is which is to be master – that’s all”,177 is shown to be a true prism or “looking-glass”, ← 34 | 35 → that allows us to interpret reality. Because pursuing the power means analysing who exercises it and who suffers from it, who elaborates discourses of cohesion and who assimilates these, who attempts to establish identities and divergences and who assumes and expresses them.

This framework has forced the so-called human sciences, in their necessary scientific claims, to try to avoid falling into the same traps which society moves in. Therefore, at least since the 19th century, the study of the human being and its environment has tried to focus in more objective interpretative parameters, either trying to analyse the contemporary society178 with “rules of method”179 or from attempting to look upon the past using positivist historiographic tools180 to materialist and mechanistic paradigms.181 However, these attempts could not prevent deflected interpretations that actually have justified, in many ways, the serious situations experienced by humanity during the 20th century. As Ernst Bloch warned, one invoked utopia but seemed to move towards self-destructive nihilism.182 In perspective, one realizes, for example, that the historiographic path has not stopped feeding speeches with which justify the shadows of life: suicides exemplaires, martyres, exécutions, assassinats, holocaustes.183 Consequently, the scientific capacity of the social sciences has been placed in doubt. They seem to be trapped in the most immediate circumstances of human society. Karl Popper plainly distrusted the scientific capacities of the cultivators of history because they more often seem locked into their own interpretative circle than vigilant to pursuit the reality.184 In the same way, Manuel Cruz’ sentence was clear, perseguir el conocimiento científico de la ← 35 | 36 → historia se había convertido en un objetivo tan inútil como poco deseable.185

In the study of the interpretative axes of the present, including the comprehension of its historical roots, this apparent detour has been corrected by introducing new interpretative vectors,186 attentive to the text that comes from the past as a source,187 to the deconstruction of reality188 and to the incorporation of a wide range of attention to different parameters that articulate the social framework,189 so to resume the processes of legitimacy, validation and hierarchisation of reality.190 In this context, while it is possible on one hand to return to the bases of critical rationalism,191 on the other, attempts have been made to start the transmitting axes in which to base reality, which require a history, an archaeology and a genealogy of power, to express it in the gradation established by Foucault.192

Thus, more than following interpretative threads that, like progress itself, aim to explain the route of humanity in a more or less teleological way, the scientific analysis of society will have to seek transversal vectors that merely permit entry into the social fabric from different perspectives, to interpret it correctly. Just when in philosophic thought such authors as Wolfgang Welsch insist on the “transversal reason” as a kind of path that apprehends a reality submitted to a complex plurality,193 the analysis of social facts can take advantage of the same logic. ← 36 | 37 →

While seeking their own research subjects, the Human and Social Sciences have opted for using, as transversal interpretative vectors, the same axes which society is articulated around, although analysed with scientific accuracy and caution. That is why there has been an evolution towards the definition of an “Identity theory”,194 knowing that humanity’s journey becomes a construction of identity195 or, at least, a justified use of materials of identity196 In the end, the human being has always been protected by the invocation of identity, with the inherent corollary of memory based on a specific ideology. Understandably, the historian Pierre Nora confessed that il m’a paru plus excitant de remplacer l’histoire des thèmes et des idées par la dissection minutieuse des objets, lieux et formules où s’était cristallisé le sentiment d’appartenance.197 Hence, adopting the study of identity as an axis of research is not reductive but rather the contrary, it leads to trying to comprehend, from its constitutive interior,

les múltiples formes d’agrupació –que no poden ser classificades segons un ordre de perfecció creixent- de què s’ha dotat la humanitat al llarg dels segles, com també dels diversos sistemes simbòlics que defineixen una identitat diferenciada (natural o de gènere, per exemple) com una ‘construcció cultural’ sotmesa a variacions segons l’espai i el temps.198

So, it will be behind the gestures of identity that the social researchers will be able to perceive, often in a blurred way and under misleading forms, the reality of the men and women who not only configure society but also articulate contradictory justifying speeches, which canalize the different and opposed attitudes in society.

In its polysemy, the term identity has adopted an apparent social fashion as a lure in the most varied senses. A simple glance outside the scientific areas will show us such expressions as “economy of identity” ← 37 | 38 → to refer to the adaptation of the product to the individual characteristics of its receptor.199 This can be specified as “identity tourism”200 or as the search for strategies between territorial identities and economic development and the promotion of knowledge.201 The generalization and almost trivialisation of the term increases logical suspicions in scientific areas. Nevertheless, identity, as a subject of study, is an obvious and useful transversal research vector, and as such offers important possibilities for social analysis that are looking for new ways of penetration. This need is clear at the time when current society culminates the path that Joaquín Estefanía predicted for it at the beginning of the millennium and warned regarding la tendencia del poder a desplazarse desde las esferas directamente políticas hacia las económicas; el único poder que no se discute nunca es el del dinero.202 Various corollaries have derived from this, and these require study tools, because they have passed dal mercato-luogo al ciber-mercato and have generated la stratificazione delle disuguaglianze nel mondo globalizzato.203

In this situation, there is greater than ever need to delve into the axes of identity in society, including its roots and its future prospects. That is why an interdisciplinary framework linking the Human and Social Sciences is clearly necessary. ← 38 | 39 →

6.The Institute for Research on Identities and Society

In 2009 the University of Lleida (Catalonia, Spain) created the Institute for Research on Identities and Society, with the intention of assuming the new challenges in research in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The new research institute brought together about a hundred researchers who had until then worked in their respective groups in different areas of the Humanities and Social Sciences: history, linguistics, language, literature, phonetics, sociology, education, etc. The interdisciplinary approach required by the new research parameters could thus be encouraged and promoted, through linking investigations that were mostly parallel. Identity was, for each of them, a transversal vector, destined to be fruitful in the interdisciplinary approach that the new centre encouraged.

Proof of the vigour is the scientific meetings that took place in September and November 2010 called To think the Identity and, more specifically, Identities on the move. The aim was to contrast the respective research lines and, at the same time, propitiate a space for multidisciplinary and international debate. The meetings were attended by outstanding research figures from various disciplines and from different research centres from a wide international range. This generated an admirable contrast of different scientific cultures. The diachronic vision, multi-disciplinary approach, methodological reflection and the contrast with reality blended and propitiated a great conceptual wealth. Altogether, it had to illuminate the basic questions, which, once clarified and contrasted were to contribute to renewing the scientific analysis of society and focusing on the resolution of basic questions of the scientific work on society: what we understand by identity and how it has adapted, through time, to space and the social reality.

The collection of texts gathered here originated from these works. They have arisen from the plurality, diversity and the diachronic needed to go deeper into the identities on the move, understood as a vector for improving understanding of the human being in society. ← 39 | 40 → ← 40 | 41 →


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (May)
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 515 pp., num. ill. and tables

Biographical notes

Flocel Sabaté (Volume editor)

Flocel Sabaté is professor in Medieval History and head of the Institute for Research into Identities and Society (University of Lleida, Catalonia, Spain). He served as invited professor in universities such as Paris-1, Poitiers, ENS-Lettres et Sciences (Lyon), Universidad Nacional de Mexico or Yale, and led international research projects from European institutions such as the European Science Foundation or Marie Curie Actions. He belongs to more than fifty boards for scientific journals and series and has written more than three hundred research works, including different books about medieval society.


Title: Identities on the Move