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Best of All Possible Islands, The

Seville's Universal Exposition, the New Spain, and the New Europe

Richard Maddox

Publication Year: 2004

The 1992 world’s fair in Seville serves as a vantage point from which to examine Spain’s developing democracy and Europe’s emerging unification, according to Richard Maddox in The Best of All Possible Islands. Visited by over fourteen million people, the Seville Expo drew the participation of more than one hundred countries and dozens of corporations. As part of Spain’s “miraculous year” in which Barcelona hosted the summer Olympics and Madrid was designated the Cultural Capital of Europe, the Expo advanced a remarkably optimistic, cosmopolitan, and liberal vision of the past, present, and future of the “new Spain” and the “new Europe.” Yet no aspect of this vision went unchallenged, and the Expo was at the center of fierce political rivalries and dramatic manifestations of popular discontent. In an engaging and accessible narrative, Richard Maddox demonstrates how visitors and local residents understood the significance of the event in ways that largely escaped the knowledge and control of the Expo’s organizers. Understanding how and why this occurred casts critical light on the transformation of Spain since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1976 and illuminates some of the key cultural and political dilemmas that processes of European and global integration pose for citizens of democratic societies.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in National Identities

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix

I am greatly indebted to the many people and institutions that have contributed to aspects of this work over the last decade and more. Financial support for research in Spain in 1990, 1992, 1995, 1998, and 2001 was provided by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Program for Cultural Cooperation Between Spain’s Ministry of Culture and United...

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PART I: Guidelines: Contemporary Ethnography and the New World Order in Spain

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pp. 1-34

From 15 April to 12 October 1992, a universal exposition, the highest category of world’s fair, was held in Seville, Spain. La Exposición Universal Sevilla 1992—commonly called Expo ’92—was located on La Isla de la Cartuja, an island (in fact, a peninsula) of previously undeveloped land that lies between two branches of the Guadalquivir River, just to the west of the historic...

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PART II: Origins and Structures: The State, the Party, and the Expo

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pp. 35-91

According to the Expo ’92 Official Guide, “On 31 May 1976, H. M. King Juan Carlos I of Spain announced that a Universal Exposition was to be held to celebrate the Fifth Centenary of the Discovery of America” (see SEEUS 1992b:21). The statement, strictly speaking, is not correct. It serves as a sort of myth of origin, conveying the impression that the Expo sprang fully conceived...

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PART III: Conjunctures and Conflicts: Technobureaucracy and the City

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pp. 93-155

To the ordinary visitor setting forth on the Route of Discoveries, the Expo presented itself as a bland consensual m

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PART IV: Pavilions and Performances: The Expo as Cultural Olympics

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pp. 157-222

While disputes between Expo organizers and Seville unfolded in the early summer of 1992, the official Expo of thronging tourist masses proceeded almost without interruption. This Expo was a “media event” in nearly every sense of the term. Just as the organizers hoped to use the Expo to “change the image of Spain” in Europe and elsewhere, the 110 or more participating...

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PART V: Dispositions and Practices: The Sense of Freedom and the Politics of Daily Life

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pp. 223-288

Perhaps the most important explicit aim of the Expo was to change the image of Spain. It was generally understood that this meant convincing foreigners that Spain had emerged from decades of dictatorship and relative isolation as a thoroughly liberal, progressive, and democratic state and that the Spanish people wholeheartedly embraced the overall direction of social...

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PART VI: The Aftermath

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pp. 289-322

The Expo ended as it had begun—with embittered parochial politics and elaborate official celebrations of cooperation and progress. After the furor over the season passes had subsided in late summer, most Sevillanos sought to enjoy the fair as best they could and were more concerned with the effects of the massification on the event than with the continuing squabbling among local...

Notes to the Text

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pp. 323-335

Official Documents and Publications Cited

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pp. 337-338

References Cited

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pp. 339-356


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pp. 357-382

E-ISBN-13: 9780791484890
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791461211
Print-ISBN-10: 0791461211

Page Count: 382
Illustrations: 3 maps
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: SUNY series in National Identities