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Basque Cultural Studies

In 2016, the University of Massachusetts Amherst was selected by the Etxepare Institute, of the Basque Department of Culture as the ideal location for the inauguration of a new endowed Chair, named after the internationally known anthropologist, William A. Douglass.  Founded in 2010, the Etxepare Institute was created with the aim of promoting knowledge about Basque culture and language in centers of higher education across the world.

This honor comes as a result of the University’s long standing reputation for research and training in the Anthropology of Europe in general and for its history of scholarship on Spain’s minority regions (Basque and Catalan) in particular.  The Department of Anthropology at UMass has been a nationally known hub for graduate training of anthropologists studying European societies and cultures, with a particular focus on cultures of the periphery.  Since 1996, the Department has hosted an annual Distinguished Lecture in the Anthropology of Europe. In accepting the Douglass Chair and the annual lecture and seminars it will make possible, we will approach Basque Cultural Studies as an interdisciplinary field of study and intend to invite scholars to campus who can address cultural issues from a wide spectrum: anthropology, political science, Language and Literature, as well as history, and other fields. 


FALL 2022

Seminar: “Witches Talk”: Gender and Language in Basque Folklore and Song.
Invited Scholar: Dr. Begoña Echeverria, University of California, Riverside

Anth 595B/ Span 595B. Basque Cultural Studies

Course Description: The Basque language, Euskera, is a non Indo-European language isolate.  Unlike Spanish or French, it has no grammatical gender, but it does have a unique gender inflected second person system of pronouns, known as hitanoa.  While the form for speaking to a male addressee (toka) continues to be used and enjoy prestige, the form for a female addressee (noka) has declined significantly.  The invited guest scholar of the William A. Douglass Chair in Basque Cultural Studies, Dr. Echeverria, will present her research on this pronoun system and its social meanings, focusing in particular on fascinating evidence folklore and song that associate noka with witches and unruly women. In her public lecture (Sept 19) Dr. Echeverria will present her own efforts as a musician to revitalize noka usage.    
Pass/Fail.  This course is open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates.

Structure: The course will meet 3 times over the course of one month. Monday 4-6:30 (EST). Materials will include selected readings from ‘Witches’ and Wily Women: Saving Noka through Basque Folklore and Song (Echeverria, 2020) and the film Akelarre [Coven] by Pablo Agüero (2020). 

Sept. 12. Meeting 1:  
Introduction to themes of the seminar with Dr. Echeverria (remote) Introduction to the topic of gender and language, noka, and stereotypes of witches in Basque folklore.  Discussion of selected readings and the film, Akelarre [Coven](2020) by Pablo Agüero. 
Sept. 19. Meeting 2: 
In person public lecture, with Dr. Echeverria. Title TBA. 
Oct. 3. Meeting 3:
Seminar with Dr. Echeverria  (remote)

Requirements: Regular attendance and participation at all meetings, annotations of readings, and a 5-7 page paper on a topic related to the course materials. Course is pass/fail.
This course may be of particular interest to students with interests in anthropology, Iberian studies, linguistics, gender studies, and folklore.


A lecture by Professor Xabier Irujo: Looking Back on the Bombing of Gernika
Nov. 3. 5pm. 601 Herter Hall

Xabier Irujo, professor at the University of Nevada Reno, will offer the lecture ´Looking back on the bombing of Gernika´ within the framework of the William A. Douglass Chair at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. On April 26th, 1937, on market day, Gernika, the sacred city of Basque People, was destroyed and more than 2,000 men, women and children were killed by the action of the Nazi Luftwaffe and the Italian Air Force, acting under Francisco Franco’s command.  Immortalized in the painting by Picasso, the bombing of Gernika was one of the first actions of the Condor Legion, a real-life training for the Nazi’s Blitzkrieg. The methods developed by this unit served as a model for the bombings by Luftwaffe during the Second World War.  Professor Irujo has conducted original archival research into how the Franco regime denied and attempted to cover-up of the bombing. He will discuss its repercussions for how the “terror bombing” is remembered and its impact in the larger theatre of the Spanish Civil War.
Xabier Irujo Born in exile in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1967, Xabier Irujo is the director of the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he is professor of genocide studies. He has taught seminars on genocide and cultural genocide at Boise State University and at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He holds two Ph.D.s in history and philosophy and has lectured in nearly 100 American and European universities and academic or cultural institutions. His recent books include Gernika: Genealogy of a Lie (Sussex Academic Press, 2018), Gernika 1937: The Market Day Massacre (Nevada University Press, 2015) and Legal History of the Basque Language (HAEE, Bilbao, 2015). In 2018, he was awarded the Gernika Prize for Peace and Reconciliation by the Gernika city council.
For readings and more information on Gernika, please see the website of the Center for Basque Studies




Juan Jose Ibarretxe, Former President of the Basque Autonomous Community of Spain, Speaks at UMass Amherst

Juan Jose Ibarretxe, former president of the Basque Autonomous Community of Spain and director of the Agirre Lehendakaria Center  of Social and Political Studies, delivered the second annual William Douglass Chair in Basque Cultural Studies Lecture on Tuesday, April 17th. Ibarretxe’s presentation, “How to Change a Country,” addressed the problems plaguing the Basque prior to and during his time in office.
In the early 1980s, the Basque region of Spain was beset by conflict and its economy was in ruins. Three decades later, it is at peace and second only to Luxembourg in Europe’s prosperity index. From the opening of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, to the eve of the separatist group ETA’s lasting ceasefire, Ibarretxe explored what lessons other countries can learn from the Basque region’s rebirth. 
The William A. Douglass Chair in Basque Cultural Studies, inaugurated in 2016, is made possible by the Etxepare Basque Institute, which served as a co-host for this event with the UMass Amherst department of anthropology. Ibarretxe, who served as Basque Autonomous Community president from 1999-2009, was introduced by William Douglass, coordinator emeritus of the Basque Studies Center of the University of Nevada, Reno. The lecture was followed by a reception hosted by the department of anthropology and the UMass Amherst International Programs Office.
Additional support for this presentation was provided by the International Programs Office, the School of Public Policy, the Modern European studies program, the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies, and the Political Economy Research Institute. (pictured left: Juan Jose Ibarretxe. Pictured right: Anthropology Chair Jackie Urla.)



Basque Improvised Poetry: Politics and Poetics from a woman’s point of view

Monday, Feb. 5, 2018 UMass Amherst. Lecture & Presentation, Spanish & Portuguese Dept. Bertsolaritza renaissance and recovery of the Basque language
Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, 4 pm. Smith Poetry Center.
Lecture, Discussion & Demonstration: Basque Improvised Poetry: Politics and Poetics from a woman’s point of view.

Miren Artetxe and Maialen Lujanbio will jointly present in English a lecture and short demonstrations of the art form of improvised poetry. They will focus on the history, the ways poems are constructed, and talk in particular about the experience of being women poets as well how young people are using it to articulate social critique and changing values today.
Collaborating Sponsors: Modern European Studies Program, UMass Amherst, Spanish and Portuguese Program, UMass Amherst, Smith Poetry Center, Spanish and Portuguese Dept. Smith College (ADD IN)

Program Background
We are pleased to host two women poets from the Basque Country, Euskalherria, to discuss with us the tradition of improvised Basque oral poetry known as bertsolaritza. The Basque language is a unique non IndoEuropean language spoken by approximately half a million people in the western Pyrenees of both Spain and France. This tradition of rhyming improvised verses set to specific meters and melodies has fascinated scholars for its unique form of story telling and rich use of metaphor. For many generations it survived as a past time of mostly men who competed to outwit each other after a meal or round of drinking cider. The social movement to reclaim the Basque language and cultural identity stimulated a recovery of bertsolaritza attracting the interest of a new generation of politicized and urban young men and women who have made this art form into a means of commenting on current social and political life. Bertsolari performances are now regular parts of community festivals and the national competition of poets held every four years fills a stadium of over 10,000 people who come to listen and see who will win the “txapela”, or champion’s beret. Short Film on the art of Bertsolaritza with English subtitles

Maialen Lujanbio (Hernani, 1976) is the first woman to have won the national competition of oral poets (2009) a spectacular competition held every 4 years. She is part of a new generation of Basque speakers who have helped to revitalize this oral tradition of improvised versifying. She is the most well-known female bertsolari (oral poet) in what has been traditionally a male dominated art form. Her performances have garnered her a reputation for the depth and originality of her imagination. She has performed across the world, holds a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, writes social and cultural commentary, and engages in various photographic and graphic projects in the visual arts

Miren Artetxe is a bertsolari performer and a scholar of traditional forms of oral poetry performed in European minority languages. She has conducted extensive research on the identity of young people who become oral poets, the linkage between oral poetry and women’s sense of empowerment, and most recently, she is documenting the impact bertso eskola (poetry schools) are having on young French Basques’ use of the Basque language. A fluent speaker of Basque, Spanish, Catalan, French and English, she has given talks in France, Finland, Spain and the UK and a frequent contributor to Basque print and radio media.

She received her Bachelor’s degree in Basque philology from the University of the Basque Country in 2008, a master’s degree from the University of Barcelona in 2009 and is currently a doctorate candidate in the Department of Communications at the UPV.




Tuesday, September 27, 12pm, at 301 Herter.
Lecture on “Contemporary Fiction and Film: National Ghosts, Global Audiences” by Professor Mari Jose Olaziregi, Associate Professor at the University of the Basque Country and Academic Director at Etxepare Basque Institute.

In her presentation, Professor Olaziregi will analyze the function that re-memorizing the past has had in Basque literature during the last four decades. She will trace the remembrance of a mythic past in 1980s fiction to the prominence of a conflictive political past in contemporary fiction. The debate surrounding the tensions that cultural specificity generates in Basque literary spheres (writers, language, translations, universalism) will function as a preamble in order to analyze the current controversy regarding how Basque literature should be packaged to find a place in a global framework.

William A. Douglass Chair in Basque Cultural Studies
Schedule of Events, Monday September 26, 2016

Event #1
Symposium: William Douglass and the Anthropology of Europe
12:30 – 2 pm. Sept. 26, 2016
4 prominent scholars will discuss the broader set of themes addressed in Douglass’ research which include: migration, race ideology, state formation and nationalism, terrorism, peace and conflict resolution. The formal presentations will be followed by questions and discussion period, as well as commentary by William Douglass.

Event #2
Inaugural Lecture - 5 pm. Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.
Sept. 26, 2016. Inaugural Lecture: Title: To be Announced.
William Douglass will deliver a public lecture. Representatives from the Etxepare Institute and the Basque Ministry of Culture will come from Spain to celebrate this new international academic partnership.

Event #3. Reception for guests hosted by International Programs and the Provost. 6:00- 7:30 pm
Symposium Speakers
1. Joseba Zulaika. Professor and Co-Director, Basque Studies Center, University of Nevada, Reno.  Zulaika is an expert in the field of political violence in the Basque Country, former Director of the Center for Basque Studies, and co-author with Douglass on a number of works on terrorism and nationalism.
2. Sharon Roseman, Professor. Memorial University. Newfoundland, Canada.  Dr. Roseman is an anthropologist who has extensive experience studying rural labor migration and minority language cultures in Spain. A member of a large interdisciplinary research project on new modes of labor mobility in Canada, she will situate Douglass’ work on migration in relation to new studies of minority cultures and migration.
3. Caroline Brettel, the Ruth Collins Altshuler Professor and Director of the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute, Southern Methodist University. Author of Gender and Migration (Polity Press, forthcoming); Co-editor of Citizenship, Political Engagement, and Belonging: Immigrants in Europe and the United States (Rutgers University Press, 2008); Anthropology and Migration: Essays on Transnationalism, Ethnicity and Identity (Altamira Press, 2008); Migration Theory: Talking Across Disciplines. (New York: Routledge, 2000); and When They Read What We Write: The Politics of Ethnography (edited volume). (Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey/Greenwood, 1993)
4. Susan Carol Rogers. Associate Professor of Anthropology, New York University. Author of Shaping Modern Times in Rural France: The transformation and reproduction of an Aveyronnais community. Princeton University Press, 1991; "Which heritage? Nature, culture and identity in French rural tourism", French Historical Studies 25, 2002; "Anthropology in France", Annual Review of Anthropology 30, 2001; Farming visions: Agriculture in French culture, French Politics, Culture, and Society 18, 200