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Basque Nationhood

Towards a Democratic Scenario


Edited By Pedro Ibarra Güell and Åshild Kolås

Debates about Basque self-determination were curtailed for decades by political violence, involving both the actions of ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) and the counter-terrorism activities of Spain and France. In 2011, ETA announced a permanent cessation of operations. Since then, stakeholders have become increasingly aware of the need to rethink Basque nationhood and democratic representation in light of the changing nature of nationhood and citizenship within the European Union. These issues are also topical in the French Basque country, which has witnessed a re-emergence of Basque identity politics in recent years.
This book describes the contemporary re-imagining of Basque nationhood in both Spain and France. Taking a fresh look at the history of Basque nationalist movements, it explores the new debates that have emerged since the demise of non-state militancy. Alongside analysis of local transformations, it also describes the impact of global changes on ideas about Basque self-determination.
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Francisco Letamendia – 1 The Violent Conflict: Actors, Histories, Models and Discourses



1The Violent Conflict: Actors, Histories, Models and Discourses

The Basque country is often referred to as the ‘imagined nation’ whose diverse territories are located within two states, Spain and France. This is a peripheral nation, born from an antagonistic counter-imitation of a nation state that acceded to modernity. It is a nation that considers itself discriminated against, in the distribution of goods that correspond to its linguistic and cultural differences.

In this chapter, the main theories associated with nationalism will be outlined and discussed. More specifically, and for the purpose of this chapter, Basque peripheral nationalism is recognized as a modern phenomenon, as different from primordialist theories of nationhood. On the other hand, contrary to some strands of constructivist theory, Basque peripheral nationalism is not understood as artificial. Rather, it is founded on key elements of the cultural systems that preceded it, such as language, customs, and religion. As explained by primordialist theories (Deutsch 1961; Geertz 1973) rapid social change could (potentially) activate ‘primordial’ ethnic loyalties. I prefer Benedict Anderson’s more nuanced approach, which differs from that of the primordialists. Anderson (1983) maintains that imagined nations are indeed products of modernity, though they are not artificial as they connect with the cultural contexts that preceded them.

Positivist approaches to nationalism take a predominantly negative view of peripheral nationalism (Hayes 1996: Shafer 1964: Hobsbawn 1983). In more recent, post-positivist studies of nationalism, several theories have been drawn up to...

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