Social History, Public Sphere, and National Narratives: The Social Origins of Valencian Regional Imaginary in Nineteenth-Century Spain
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During the past twenty years, the approaches and perspectives associated with both poststructuralism and feminism have prompted historians to question the centrality of some of social history’s most basic assumptions, opening the door to what Patrick Joyce has called a “selfrebexive and historicized understanding” of social history and its epistemological legacy.1 In particular, many scholars now agree that race, gender, class, and national identities do not, as was previously thought, derive exclusively from a network of social referents external to language but rather arise from a system of representations in which language and its referents undergo a continual process of mediation. This focus has renewed historians’ interest in some forms of knowledge production and/or memory construction, such as the process of literary creation, that have historically been marginalized within a Western, male, and white modernity. It has also helped bring about a more critical approach to operative master narratives, as historians have become increasingly aware of the epistemological instability at the heart of all historical writing and have learned to recognize the political and emotional dimensions of these narrative texts. These theoretical and methodological developments, which call attention to the interconnectedness of buid and changing identities, on the one hand, and to the instability of historical narratives, on the other, have drawn many historians’ attention to the multiple channels of power, resistance, and cultural exchange that pulse at the heart of identities once perceived as axed.2 As a further result of this process, many historians have also made it their goal to decenter and destabilize national narratives,3 as the old twofold historical myth of origins and national continuity has given way to a view of the nation as an “imagined community,” to use Benedict Anderson’s celebrated term.4 According to this view, both material and ideological processes, themselves shaped by a series of hierarchical power relations, stand behind the process of nation formation. It is within this context that I wish to situate this essay, focusing on how historical narratives work to create and perpetuate actitious representations of those naturalized communities. Speciacally, I would like to incorporate some of the contributions mentioned previously to show how the nationalist literature of a particular place and time—Spain in the 1960s and 1970s—both evoked and perpetuated a actitious historical narrative constructed in an attempt to understand Valencia ’s supposed “failure” to articulate a cohesive national identity during the 1800s. The paradoxes resulting from this particular use of the past, I suggest, can only be exposed if we dismantle and thoroughly examine the symbolic structures upon which Valencian identity was grounded during the late 1800s. To this end, I examine two texts (published in 1859 and 1889) that can be seen as paradigmatic of the kind of broad regional narrative in which a whole host of class, gender, ethnic, and linguistic differences were assumed, evoked, and projected onto Valencian rural society by distinguished members of the city’s urban middle classes. In short, my goal here is to explore the process through which modern identities get axed within the narrative structures of political discourse. 343 ⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮ Social History, Public Sphere, and National Narratives The Social Origins of Valencian Regional Imaginary in Nineteenth-Century Spain Mónica Burguera ⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯ Writing the Nation as an Absence Spanish approaches to the history of national identity began to take shape during the last decade of the Franco regime and in the early years of the country’s transition to democracy. Initially, this impulse came from the so-called peripheral nationalities, especially the Catalans and the Basques. Inbuenced by European historiographical trends then current in Europe, such as those proposed by the French Annales school and by a broader Marxism, this postwar Spanish literature emphasized the class structures underlying Castile’s cultural domination within the Spanish state. In this context, invoking the rise of the peripheral nations was equated with recapturing the cultural essence of the popular classes. This vision of Spain as a territory made up of numerous internal “nations” also reinforced previous assumptions about the intrinsic weakness of the Spanish state. Within this framework of a presumably failed nationalization, historians attributed different rates of modernization or nationalization to the various territories within nineteenth-century Spain. Thus, while they saw Catalonia and the Basque Country as having been rapidly industrialized by a relatively strong bourgeoisie, they categorized other culturally differentiated territories such as Galicia and Valencia as weak, peripheral preexisting identities that had ultimately proved incapable of overcoming the oppression of the...


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