Joan Ramon Resina (Barcelona, 1956) is a professor at Stanford University. He holds a PhD in English Philology and Comparative Literature. He is an editor at several European and American journals, winning the 2020 “Creu de Sant Jordi” award of Catalonia “for his work in defence of Catalan identity”. His has just released his book Catalunya amb ulls estranyats (“Catalonia from distanced eyes”), a compilation of his articles published on Vilaweb. Vilaweb conducted an interview with him last November we now offer in Basque for the readers with the permission of the Catalan digital journal.
The interview conducted to J.R. Resina by Vilaweb is full of substance. It is worth remembering that Catalonia sits now at a political crossroads in the face of the upcoming election, so results cast by the ballots will be critical in order to determine the political path this nation will be pursuing, namely autonomy versus independence.
According to Resina, the strategy adopted by ERC is risky, softening its nationalist discourse with a view to growing in the metropolitan area of Barcelona and attracting votes from Spanish unionism. The Catalan professor calls into question the strategy: “What is the use of gaining some thousands of votes if the driving force behind the pro-independence movement gets eroded? If the price to pay involves acknowledge of Spanish as a native language, refusal to cultural integration and the adoption of some kind of Spanish ‘creolisme’, we risk closing the path of historic restoration”. Resina warns that Spanish is not far from becoming the hegemonic language in Catalonia.
The Catalan intellectual asserts that the struggle for national liberation historically only ends up in either independence or a nation’s elimination.
In another excerpt, he also laments in-fight among Catalan nationalists, stating that these disputes disrupt the union necessary for independence. “As compared to the enormity of the national issue, social matters lie at a second level, while the leading actors of our politics keep on a family feud like a puppet show with its righteous and its wicked”.
Resina later denounces the attempts to demonizing identities, i.e. the identities of stateless nations, of course. “Following the downfall of big ideologies and the comeback of social differences, some kind of French “universalism” has taken hold, basically the perennial Jacobinism, an evil particularism of the state”. The Spanish are comfortable with that, since it criminalizes identities in the Iberian Peninsula that clash with Spanish identity.
Questioned on the 2017 events in Catalonia, the Catalan intellectual looks back with resignation. “On October 10, independence was proclaimed and immediately after declared void, and later that month, on the 27, half-hearted, the government was already willing to run away. Later we got to know that the announced state structures were not ready, and more painfully, the heads of the Mossos held a plan to arrest the government… That is the saddest fact that exposes the misery surrounding the moment: the government did not even count on the police’s loyalty to keep control of the territory. Amateurism comes straight to mind”. Resina thinks that the events could at least be instrumental in feeding the Catalan political imagery. 1640, 1714, 1931, October 2017… They are all dates steeped in great symbolism, referential, which can pave the way to another attempt.
Resina supports a nation definition based on culture: “A nation is made up of biologic matter and social transmissions, like rules, practices, language, myths or, nowadays, history. Biologic matter is universal, but social elements are privative, even if they are shared with others… We cannot talk of a national community without a different culture”. Demands for a nation are treading water if there is no cultural support to keep them afloat. The Spanish state is well aware of that, so it has always attempted to eliminate the Catalan nation, by stripping its people of its cultural and language traits.
At the end of the interview, he goes on to recall memories from his childhood in Barcelona. Despite the severe Francoism, Catalan was still the hegemonic language in the city during that period, with the children of the immigrants learning Catalan in the street. That does not happen today anymore. Furthermore, the Barcelona of that period, despite being fraught with taboos, was much more inclined to respect than it is today, holds Resina: “Its atmosphere feels like an electric storm, with relationships in the brink of collapse; distrust impregnates communication and egoism is on the rise, perhaps as a result of one’s own experiences.”
Follow the full interview in the link below: