BASQUE SOCIAL MOVEMENTS ON TRIAL. (February 28, 2008) Dr. Jacqueline Urla is Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts Amherst. Dr. Urla reflects on how research on language and cultural activism has changed in light of new anti terrorist strategies in the Basque Country of Spain.
In 1996, the special anti-terrorist court of Spain, the Audiencia Nacional, began a new strategy for eliminating nationalist political violence that targeted what they call the social and economic “infrastructure” of ETA. The activities she had been documenting as an ethnographer -- language revitalization and civil disobedience -- once considered quite distinct from political violence, came under suspicion and their authors have been arrested and imprisoned.
As the line between legitimate forms of dissent and political violence were blurred, she found herself confronted with new ethical challenges. She used the case of the virtually unreported trial of civic dissenters concluded in December 2007 as an example of the new climate of fear and intimidation and the questions it has posed for her as an anthropologist with long-term ties to individuals who now find themselves in prison.