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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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Igor Ahedo – 8 Iparralde: The Emergence of the Basque Territory in France


← 252 | 253 → IGOR AHEDO

8Iparralde: The Emergence of the Basque Territory in France

In the beginning ‘was the word’ – thus opens John’s Gospel (1.1), to describe Genesis. ‘It seems that all things that have a name exist’ (Izena duen guztia omen da) goes an old Basque folk saying, affirming the existence of mythical beings.1 These two affirmations combine in a single metaphor the main thesis of this study: the way that the local territory is interpreted – named (or left unnamed) and defined (or denied) – signals the central state’s or peripheral nationalism’s success in their respective state- and/or nation-building processes. However, our task as researchers is not to confirm or reject the existence of God, or fairies, or (in our case) to demonstrate whether or not the Basque country in France (Iparralde) ‘exists’ despite lacking institutional recognition. Rather, our task is to explain whether and why people believe that this territory exists as a distinct reality. In short, as Pérez-Agote points out:

The social efficacy of ideas (gods, mythological beings, territories), in terms of their ability to influence behaviour, depends not on their scientific veracity, but on the degree of obviousness that they attain, on their ability to assert themselves as real – which, in turn, depends on the mechanisms for the gestation and social reproduction of ideas. (Pérez-Agote 1984: 2–3)

From the point of view that I am adopting, regardless of what mechanisms the authorities or nationalist movements may deploy...

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