'Nationalists and the Problem of Overcoming Invisibility: Catalonia and Wales'
Since the rise of mature print culture in the second half of the nineteenth century, both the Catalan and Welsh nationalist movements have been forced over time to confront the problem of their relative invisibility. In the newsmedia, in magazines, even in books, at least for over a century, readers have been bombarded day by discussions of "England" or "Spain", or by notions of "Britishness" or "Hispanidad/Hispanismo". All such are commonly received, and just as commonly accepted without questioning, as conventional wisdom.
Therefore, the first objective of these two sub-state nationalist movements, like so many others in the world around them, has been to obtain the fact of perception: their possible political clientele must first realise that they incarnate "something else", different as a collective to the publicly recognized government and territory, of which they allegedly form a part. The primary and oldest weapon in the sub-nation arsenal has been the writing of History specific to a historic space, which might have once been an "independent" entity, but which is not so any longer. The implication is, of course, the prophetic idea of a "once and future" nation, which has existed and may reappear.
But many other arms have been used by sub-state nationalist movements to gain "awareness", "raise consciousness", and heighten sensibility among their fellow "nationals". These themes -from academic racism in its heyday to ever-revived folklore and music - are a reflection of current fashions at any one time, and of change over a longer run. Once a following among others of similar nationality, language or sense of selfhood is achieved, there is the need to undertake a task of "nation-building" outside government institutions, which are always an expression of what has been aptly termed "banal nationalism", and is capable of constant pressure.
Also foreign opinion must be courted and convinced, even converted, to the new cause. Outside specialists, especially in literary studies, who may become adepts, can help make a movement synonymous with the territory it claims to represent, an identification which means the triumph of visibility over anonymity and blindness. Both Catalan and Welsh nationalisms, in their different ways, express this fight against invisibility. This is the common thread that, as investigators and students of either nationalism, we can share together, in common and useful discussion or debate.
Dr. Enric Ucelay-Da Cal. Professor. Dept. Contemporary History Principal Researcher of GRENS. Universitat Pompeu Fabra