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date: 16 December 2017

Intergroup Communication: Spain

Summary and Keywords

Intergroup communication in Spain focuses mainly on the interactions between the Spanish state and the coexisting national minorities. Spain is a state divided into autonomous communities, three of which—Catalonia, Galicia, and Basque Country—are denominated historic communities, having their own languages that coexist co-officially with Castilian, the official language of Spain. Because national identities are not fixed, but mutable in the face of political, economic, and social circumstances, the dynamics established between Spain and these historic communities are a recurring theme of study and analysis. However, research conducted from the perspective of intergroup communication is very scarce. The mutability of national identities is explicitly stated in an alarming way in the current highly conflictive intergroup communication between the Spanish state and Catalonia. This autonomous community has progressed from a cultural claim in the 19th century to a pact-based ethnopolitical vindication from the 1980s until the beginning of the 21st century. However, the Spanish state, from its stance as a unique and essentialist nation, is facing a Catalonia that claims recognition as a nation and a strong self-government. These demands have led to a strong polarization between the parties, to such an extent that the conflictive escalation has led Catalonia to consider secession.

Intergroup communication between Spain and the historic communities is strongly influenced by the historic circumstances of upheavals and defeats suffered because of the application of the power of the Spanish majority, willing to renounce to its richness of cultural and linguistic variability in exchange for the unity of a single Spain, and because of the ethnolinguistic vitalities of the historic minorities. Each historic community has a different ethnolinguistic vitality, as well as different feelings of injustice and legitimacy about its situation. Galicia has suffered a strong ethnolinguistic assimilation into the Spanish group of Castilian speakers, and in the Basque Country, a highly significant part of the population now feels as Basque as Spanish, while the demands for separatism are decreasing. On the other hand, Catalan-speaking communities—some ten million people—even with variations among them, have a high relative ethnolinguistic vitality and, driven by feelings of injustice, they act with strategies of competence and communicative divergence, to which the Spanish state is responding, with both strategies of silence and a strong normative enforcement. These differences in the balance of power between Spain and the historic communities have been one of the main factors that have motivated different levels in intergroup communication.

These conflicts will require imaginative solutions that allow the national group to achieve their aspirations and to overcome the Catalonia-Spain confrontation, a struggle that began more than 300 years ago. Some solutions are being proposed today, for example, to achieve a European federalism in which Europe is structured in layers, governed by principles of subsidiarity.

Keywords: Basque Country, Catalonia, Galicia, Spain, ethnolinguistic vitality, ethnopolitical conflict, identity management strategies, intergroup conflict, intergroup relations, intergroup communication

Introduction

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 divided the Kingdom of Spain into autonomous communities, some of them with historic roots, a strong sense of identity, and a specific language, such as Basque Country, Catalonia, and Galicia, and others where there never had been a different sense of identity. The objective was to reverse as much as possible the differentiation of the historic communities created by the dominant Castilian Spanish tradition of General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship (1939–1975).

In Catalonia and Basque Country, the historic narrative exists as a national identity marker of tremendous emotional strength, with a strong accent of resistance to preserve the community’s identity. For example, in Catalonia, a large part of the population does not “feel Spanish,” and this is the most predictable social identification of its intergroup ethnolinguistic actions (Giles & Viladot, 1994). That is, a large part of the Catalan “minority” perceives the state as being alien to them; many Catalan citizens feel like foreigners in Spain, which leads to a failure to identify with the policies and interests of the “usurper” state.

The historic communities’ national issue remains unresolved. In recent years, in Catalonia, the strong anti-Catalan action of the Partido Popular Español (Spanish People’s Party), an essentialist right-wing party in charge since 2011, ruling with an absolute majority from 2011 to 2015 and with a relative majority in the legislature initiated in 2016, has provoked a significant surge in national feeling, thus confirming the malleability of the identities.

Confrontation strategies in the intergroup conflict have been developing in Spain in two different ways: cultural resistance (in Catalonia, the manifestations of cultural resistance have recently moved toward an ethnopolitical resistance, which is explicitly based on competition and disobedience) and armed struggle (in Basque Country, the ETA terrorist organization threatened Spain from 1959, under the Franco regime, to 2011).

Objectives of the Present Study

Without a doubt, the case of Spain can only be comprehended through analysis of the intergroup communication that exists between the Spanish state and each of the three historic autonomous communities, and, at the same time, through analysis of the intergroup relationships among the relevant groups with different national feelings within each historic national community. However, given the current and conflictive intergroup interactions between Catalonia and Spain, this chapter primarily focuses on the Catalan national community.

Since the ratification of the Spanish Constitution of 1978, major political and economic events have occurred that can be presented from the intergroup communication point of view, based on social psychology and intergroup communication theories. This point of view provides an approach to the strategies that have been used and are being used in Spain by the different groups seeking to preserve their national identity. The social identity perspective─social identity theory (Tajfel, 1982; Tajfel & Turner, 1986; see also Ellemers & Haslam, 2011) and self-categorization theory (Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell, 1987)─yields an understanding of the nature of social identity processes in communication. Furthermore, we use communication accommodation theory (see Gallois & Giles, 2015; Giles, 2016; Greenaway, Peters, Haslam, & Bingle, 2016), which is a powerful theory about intergroup interaction. To measure the intergroup dynamic, we refer to surveys, electoral results, and sociological and ethnolinguistic data from the groups.

General Overview of Intergroup Relations Between Spain and the Historic Autonomous Communities

The exercise of power in intergroup relations can be a very important element in the process of identity manipulation. In this context, the “powerful one” is not a coercive dictator, but the one who promotes certain identities and excludes or marginalizes others (Simon & Oakes, 2006). Since the creation of Spain as a modern state, the Spanish elites have been building an organizational identity around a mystification based on “unity” and “common” language. This undertaking has had a powerful effect on the legitimation of Castilian Spanish’s supremacy over other languages, and the representation of cultural and linguistic diversity as an issue (Ramallo, 2016, p. 1). Spain has been, throughout history, mainly essentialist (on the concept of essentialism in intergroup communication, see, for example, Haslam, Rothschild, & Ernst, 2000, 2002).

Nevertheless, national minorities in Spain have developed policies for the defense of their language and group by means of positive discrimination, and they continue to fight for a higher degree of pluralism in the Spanish state by calling upon general principles, such as compromise, democratic ideals, human rights, linguistic rights, etc.

Languages and Identities in Spain

All of the autonomous communities in Spain are governed by Statutes of Autonomy. The Statutes of Autonomy are the basic institutional legislation for an autonomous community, recognized by the Spanish Constitution of 1978. At the very least, this legislation comprises the community’s designation, its territorial boundaries, the organization and location of the seat of its autonomous institutions, its assumed powers, and, if applicable, the principles governing its language regime.

The three historic communities, as stated by their Statutes of Autonomy, have a language of their own, which is recognized as equally as official as Spanish; the latter, alternatively known as Castilian Spanish, is, according to the Spanish Constitution, the official language of the state and all Spaniards have the duty to know it and the right to use it. However, Castilian Spanish is the only language specifically mentioned in the Constitution (Art 3.1). The rest of the languages are referred to as “other Spanish languages” (Art. 3.2) and the constitutional duty to know the language of the Spanish nation applies only to Castilian Spanish (Art 3.1). Castilian Spanish is the mother tongue of 89% of Spanish people, and it is the most-spoken language in Spain (spoken by 99% of the population).

Populations living in territories that speak different languages than Castilian Spanish represent about 46% of total Spain. This does not mean that almost half of the population speaks a language other than Spanish, but that, indeed, this population lives in more or less intense bilingual environments. Minority languages are spoken in 11 out of 17 autonomous communities as well as in two independent cities (Ceuta and Melilla).

However, the situation of each minority language with regard to the official language, Castilian Spanish, differs widely from one region to another, revealing specific local histories of contact and national policy. As a result, Catalan, Galician, and the Basque language show different levels of ethnolinguistic vitality and of speakers’ adhesion to them as indicators of group identity.

Plenty of cross-disciplinary studies have been conducted in Spain in the field of languages; it is interesting that they have almost exclusively been done in the three historic communities with a specific language and by a large number of academics and experts. The research reveals that the three historic communities’ own languages are indicators of collective identity (Esteban-Guitart, Viladot, & Giles, 2015; Rakic, Steffens, & Mummendey, 2011; Viladot, Giles, Bolaños, & Esteban-Guitart. 2013; Viladot, Giles, Gasiorek, & Esteban-Guitart, 2012; Viladot & Siguan, 1992; Ytsma, Viladot, & Giles, 1994). This does not mean, of course, that they did not compete, or did not have to compete, with the central state’s language, Castilian Spanish.

Galician Language and Identity

The Galician language is defined as the language of Galicia and it has co-official status with Castilian under the Statute of Autonomy of Galicia. Galician is also spoken in some areas of Asturias and Castilla, and León (León and Zamora), but without co-official status. Nevertheless, Galician has undergone a process of assimilation into Castilian (Miguez, 2010). Although Galician continues to be the majority language of Galicia, Castilian has been gaining ground in daily use. The younger the individual, the less likely he or she is to have Galician as a first language. Among the younger generations, the language spoken at home is mostly Spanish (http://www.ige.eu/web/).

Until the 1980s, the domination of the rural world in Galicia was absolute from almost all points of view. Relative to Castilian, the language of the empire, the Galician language, a rural language, was perceived to have low ethnolinguistic vitality, and this affected the feeling of belonging to the ethnolinguistic group (see Veira, 2010). Ethnolinguistic vitality is defined as “the set of factors that determine the strength of a linguistic group and the possibilities that this group behaves as a collective entity, distinctive and active, in intergroup contacts” (Giles, Bourhis, & Taylor, 1977; Sachdev & Bourhis, 1993). This concept has been operationalized in terms of the strength of the group’s number of members, economic situation, and history, and the institutional support provided to the group’s cultural practices (Giles et al., 1977; Harwood, Giles, & Bourhis, 1994; Ros, Cano, & Huici, 1987; Yagmur, 2011).

The perception of a relatively low vitality both of the language and of the ethnolinguistic group, as well as the perception of the legitimacy of the low status (see Giles, Taylor, & Bourhis, 1973; Tajfel & Turner, 1986), led the Galician people to abandon the language, mainly because the boundaries between linguistic groups, Galicians and Castilians, were permeable (see Hogg, 2006; Giles & Byrne, 1982). Metaphorically, the perception of the low vitality allowed the invasive Castilian linguistic group to expand as a linguistic-cultural and social group of alternative prestige and to assimilate all the speakers of the weakened language and group. Thus the new, prestigious host group, the Spanish group, offered a new identity in which people could rebuild their self-esteem.

An investigation carried out in 2001 (see Veira, 2010) showed that the percentages of Galician speakers were reduced progressively, to the benefit of Spain, as the Galician identification decreased. Thus, on the one hand, among those who felt only Galician or more Galician than Spanish, the usual language was mostly Galician, with percentages of 86.8% and 67.1%, respectively. On the other hand, among those who maintained a dual identity and felt as Galician as Spanish, the percentages were divided almost evenly between Spanish and Galician speakers (49.8% and 50.2%). Finally, among those who felt more Spanish than Galician and among those who felt only Spanish, the majority used Castilian, with almost no difference between the types of identity (60.5% and 60.9%).

The Basque Language and Identity

The Basque Autonomous Community (or Euskadi) has a little more than two million inhabitants, of whom only about 35% speak the Basque language, a non-Indo-European language with no known relation to any other current language. In the neighbor community of Navarra, 9% of the population are Basque speakers, and the language is also spoken by 26% of the French Basque Country people. Although from the political and institutional point of view, the three territories (Euskadi, Navarra, and French Basque Country) are very different, Basque nationalism claims that they all form a single nation, Euskal Herria, which means the Basque-speaking people (or country).

The development of Euskera (as the Basque language is called in Basque) has been characterized by its protection by Basque political power. This protection led to a somewhat artificial situation, since many of the initiatives (television and press in Euskera, a large number of books in Euskera, etc.) have been possible only because of their public character or because they received official subsidies, whereas the market rewards communication in Castilian, which clearly prevails in the daily press, among television audiences, at the cinema, etc. Actually, it may be surprising that, after more than a quarter of a century of educational policy in favor of Euskera, the percentage of Basque speakers has not risen as much as could be expected. There is a certain imbalance between statistical data and real life, however, since many young people who are educated in Basque rarely speak it in everyday life. Nor can we compare the situation of Euskera with that of Catalan or Galician, which are more widely implemented and have fewer learning difficulties.

According to data from the Euskobarómetro (2015, 2016), Basque society remains divided between nationalists and non-nationalists, but the latter are predominant. A large majority remain satisfied with the Statute of Autonomy and those desiring independence remain in the minority. The latest Euskobarometer survey showed that 63% of citizens had little or no desire for independence, compared to 55% in the previous poll in July 2015. Those who strongly desired independence decreased from 30% to 24% in one year.

At the beginning of April 2017, the terrorist group ETA handed over to the French police 118 pistols, rifles, and automatic weapons, 2,875 kilos of explosives, and 25,700 detonation and ammunition elements that were hidden in eight tanks, the location of which was facilitated by members of the International Verification Commission. ETA, which declared a permanent cessation of violent activities in October of 2011, has been totally disarmed according to the civilian mediators who received from the terrorists the location of their weapons caches, most of which were located in small municipalities in the French Basque Country. The Basque Country has suffered greatly from violence, but it has turned the situation around by converting its history into an attraction for visitors. Since October 2011, without the terrorist group’s assassinations, bombings, and executions, and in the absence of the street violence of the previously radical atmosphere (save for a few sporadic events in which buses were burned in the defense of ETA prisoners), the Basque Country has been able to open itself up to the world and has welcomed a record number of visitors (Basque Institute of Statistics—EUSTAT).

Intergroup Communication of Spain and Catalonia

Today, in the 21st century, when Catalans still vigorously define themselves as being a nation, they encounter the incomprehension of many Spaniards, who defend the idea of a unitary Spanish nation and who do not accept the idea of a multinational and multicultural Spain. Spanish nationalism is used by the parties representing the state to obtain anti-Catalan votes in the rest of Spain. The demands for political autonomy and independence are based on the principles of popular sovereignty and democracy, ideas that can greatly undermine the idea of a homogeneous national identity that generally ignores interstate diversity (see, for example, Deaux, Reid, Martin, & Bikmen, 2006; Taylor, King, & Usborne, 2010). In promoting their own distinct identities, the national minorities and ethnic groups are questioning the state’s myth that, within its boundaries, its people are culturally homogeneous.

Catalan Language and Identity

The Catalan language is co-official with Castilian in the autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and the Valencian Community, where it is officially called Valenciano. It is also spoken in the eastern part of Aragon, in the “Franja de Aragón” (see the 2015 report on the situation of the Catalan language).

According to the 2012 report prepared by the CRUSCAT of the Institute of Catalan Studies, the number of Catalan speakers exceeds ten million people, which accounts for 72.4% of the population of the Catalan-speaking community. In this community, 91.7% of the people claim to understand Catalan and 52.6% say they can write it. The report also shows that Catalan would occupy 16th place among languages in the ranking by number of speakers in the European Union and represents 2.1% of the population of the European Union.

Furthermore, Catalan is also the official language in Andorra (which borders Catalonia and France), and in the south of France, “Northern Catalonia” was a part of Catalonia until 1659, when it became part of France under the Treaty of the Pyrenées. Linguistic repression in this region of France was very strong, and people stopped speaking Catalan. It was not until 1973 that Catalan was taught again in some schools. In 2007, the General Council of the Pyrenees declared the co-official status of Catalan with French.

The challenge for Catalan society is to maintain its own language with a high ethnolinguistic vitality for community life and, therefore, as one of the basic signs of identity of its society (Viladot, 1993; Viladot & Esteban-Guitart, 2011; Viladot, Esteban-Guitart, Nadal, & Giles, 2007; Viladot & Siguan, 1992). Catalans strive as a group to achieve and to maintain an ethnolinguistic identity by preserving Catalan’s economic, historic, and demolinguistic (number of speakers of Catalan) status, as well as institutional support dimensions that allow them to compare favorably with the Spanish national group.

Table 1. Spanish and Catalan sense of group belonging, 2012 to 2016

Group identity

2012 March

2012 November

2013 July

2013 November

2016 July

2016 December

Only Spanish

3.4%

2.0%

3.6%

4.4%

3.9%

4.7%

More Spanish than Catalan

2.4%

2.5%

2.6%

2.1%

5.3%

6.2%

As Spanish as Catalan

42.4%

35.0%

35.6%

33.3%

34.5%

38.7%

More Catalan than Spanish

28.2%

28.7%

25.7%

26.5%

23.5%

23.7%

Only Catalan

21.1%

29.6%

31.0%

31.3%

28.5%

22.9%

Don’t know

0.6%

0.7%

0.6%

1.1%

1.5%

1.2%

No opinion

1.9%

1.5%

0.8%

1.3%

2.8%

2.6%

Source: Center for Opinion Surveys (Centro de estudios de opinión—CEO), 2012, 2013, 2016.

Table 1 shows the evolution from 2012 to 2016 of the Spanish and Catalan sense of group belonging (Center for Opinion Surveys—CEO). The data for December 2016 suggest a significant collapse of the Catalan identity and a stabilization of mixed identity (Catalan as well as Spanish). The data show a regression of the feeling of identity as “only Catalan” and are similar to those that prevailed before the territorial conflict unleashed in 2010; perhaps this decline is due to uncertainty about secession (Hogg, 2007, 2012).

Group Awareness

According to social identity theory (SIT), the process of constructing identity can include two successive moments: the first moment is the formation of group identity and the second is group awareness, which, applied to the subject at hand, translates into national identity. Group awareness or national identity presupposes the existence of a sense of ownership, but it also includes the politicization of the group’s aspirations and, in this sense, demands the creation of an interpretative discourse of reality and an action plan.

We must bear in mind that Catalonia, especially in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, received a massive influx of immigrants—more than two million Spanish speakers—mainly from Andalusia and Murcia (southern regions of Spain), attracted by the industrial and economic power of Catalonia. Catalonia welcomed the unexpected flow of immigrants, sheltering them in the villages of the industrial belt of Barcelona (the capital of Catalonia). The immigration changed drastically not only Catalan demography but also the region’s demolinguistics. After the death of the dictator Francisco Franco and the recovery of the Generalitat of Catalonia in 1980, the new Catalan government assumed the task of recovering the region’s culture and the Catalan language, and to this end created language-immersion schools so that the Spanish-speaking children of immigrant families could learn the Catalan language as an essential integration tool. The aim was that, at the end of their schooling, students could speak, write, and read both languages, Catalan and Spanish, without the learning of one language impeding the students’ communicative capacities in the other. This model has been shown to be the best possible educational model, keeping in mind the linguistic reality of Catalonia in terms of social cohesion and equal opportunity. The positive aspect is that it is a pedagogical model that is defended by the educational community as a whole (e.g., institutions, education personnel, family associations). Nevertheless, the model has been used as a tool of attrition by Spanish nationalists, who have attempted to turn language into a weapon of political attrition. An example of this is the LOMCE, the law passed for the improvement of the quality of education, which was approved by the Spanish Congress of Deputies in November 2013 and which established that “Castilian is a vehicular language of instruction in the entire state just as the co-official languages are in their respective Autonomous Communities.” However, it was also established that, as the Catalan Statute of Autonomy and the education law (the LEC) establish that “Catalan is the language normally used in instruction,” the Catalan government will be obliged to bear the cost of providing schooling in Castilian for the children of families who request it. In 2012, when the law was being processed, the minister responsible for it acknowledged in Congress that the will of the government was to “Hispanicize Catalan children.”

In spite of repeated attempts of certain nationalist Spanish groups to claim that linguistic conflicts occur, the reality is that the coexistence of both linguistic groups in Catalonia has not caused any kind of friction beyond anecdotal reports.

Overall, immigrants from other regions of Spain have felt welcome in Catalonia. “Aules d’acollida” (“Schoolrooms of welcome”) have been established, with the aim of dealing with the problems involved in the incorporation of students who are children of immigrants and speakers of languages other than Catalan and Spanish. Special classrooms are formed in which students are taught Catalan and content or activities that facilitate the students’ integration. According to official data, the immigrants who formed the last major wave came from 180 different nationalities and jointly spoke more than 300 languages (Junyent, 2005). Today Catalonia is a pluralistic and multicultural society. Those who have Catalan as their first language express themselves fluently and without any difficulties in Spanish, and it should not be forgotten that, according to the 2016 report on the Catalan language, very high numbers and percentages of those who have Castilian or any other language as a first language are able to speak, read, and write in Catalan.

Demolinguistic Stress

Certainly, some voices have denounced that Castilian is neglected in Catalan public life and in immersion schools. Despite its resurgence, the Catalan language survives in a strongly adverse sociodemographic context regarding its recognition and the right to its use, suffering continuous impositions of other languages and regulatory pressures strongly opposed to its use. The situation of Catalan continues to be marked by the contrarian and belligerent legal proceeding of the Spanish state against the Statute of Autonomy of 2010 (see “Escalation of Conflict (2003–2016): Strategy of Confrontation”). The Spanish state refuses to fully recognize a language of the dimensions of Catalan as an official language of the state and the European Union. This situation is unique in the European Union and developed countries with a democratic tradition.

The Traditional Rule of Convergence Toward Castilian

Communication accommodation theory (CAT) suggests that people use communication to demonstrate their intergroup attitudes (see Gallois, Ogay, & Giles, 2005; Giles, 2016). The term accommodation means the dynamic variation of communicative behavior between estrangement and rapprochement related to our interlocutors or in intergroup interactions. CAT deals with different intergroup strategies (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KExeBNB5wy8). Three basic strategies are: convergence, divergence, and maintenance (Shepard, Giles, & Le Poire, 2001). In convergence, people or groups adapt their communicative behaviors to bridge divides. In divergence, the underlying motive is the desire to emphasize intergroup differences. Communicative divergence is usually the result of negative perceptions and consequent behavioral responses. Levels of consciousness about divergence (and maintenance) are higher than those for convergence (Sachdev & Bourhis, 2005). Divergence is often an attempt to force a relevant interlocutor or outgroup to adopt a more effective communicative approach. A phenomenon similar to divergence is maintenance, whereby a group persists in its communicative behavior without taking into account the communicative behavior of the relevant outgroup. These communicative strategies can be verbal or nonverbal; one can approach or distance oneself from one’s interlocutor in terms of the perceived psychological distance by the theme one chooses, by one’s rate of speech, by one’s body language and eye movements, by one’s turns of phrase, and by overlapping or interrupting—and the behaviors might not be concurrent.

Communication in the daily interactions between Catalan speakers and Spanish speakers is governed by principles of linguistic accommodation. The fact of speaking their own language, Catalan, is a sign of belonging to the group, and this is accepted with accommodations of mutual convergence between native Catalan speakers and native Spanish speakers.

Despite this, and in spite of the fact that knowledge of the Catalan language is elevated within the general population, in the interpersonal relationships between Catalan speakers and Spanish speakers, the current linguistic norm is convergence toward the use of Castilian. This fact signifies a very significant demolinguistic stress that must be added to those previously mentioned (see “Demolinguistic Stress”).

The convergence norm serves as a deeply rooted guideline that inhibits speakers of Castilian from becoming active bilinguals since they do not have the need to speak Catalan. Accordingly, textbooks for learning Catalan include among the list of phases that should be practiced by the student “Please, speak to me in Catalan” (Boix-Fuster & Paradís, 2015). In the area of Barcelona, many Catalan speakers routinely use Castilian with service workers, the majority of whom are certainly Castilian speakers, which is not to say that they are totally incapable of understanding and speaking Catalan. For example, when ordering a dish from a waiter in a restaurant in the center of Barcelona, it is not uncommon for people to switch to Castilian, despite the fact that the menus are written in Catalan. This type of behavior does not totally exclude the use of Catalan: within linguistically mixed groups, the Catalan speakers certainly speak Catalan among themselves in the presence of Castilian speakers since it is assumed there is a certain degree of passive bilingualism among the Castilian speakers. When it occurs outside a context in which Catalan is understood, Castilian speakers consider this usage ill-mannered. Recent data collected from forty questionnaires administered to students of Catalan filology at the University of Barcelona, who are presumably more prone to using Catalan, indicated their level of discomfort in maintaining their use of Catalan:

  1. 1. “Diverging from Castilian is a very tense situation for me and I always end up switching languages.”

  2. 2. “I always speak in the language in which I am spoken to.”

  3. 3. Iattempt to maintain my use of Catalan, but “exhaustion leads me back to speaking Castilian.”

  4. 4. There is a need to explain the behavior of Castilian speakers: “Castilian does not back down as a language” (Boix-Fuster & Paradís, 2015).

Catalan speakers maintain the use of the language (mutual divergence or passive bilingualism) above all in brief interactions (e.g., conversations or interactions with cashiers, employees, pedestrians, or merchants) and less often during longer and more complex interactions, where a very specific communicative objective is involved. This is also due to the fact that many Catalans cannot tolerate the use of incomplete and poorly spoken Catalan language. Divergence away from Castilian is mostly found among Catalan speakers who live in very Catalan contexts.

The government of Catalonia intervenes in the promotion of the language in interpersonal relations through awareness campaigns. It also intervenes, more indirectly, through the models of linguistic behavior promoted in Catalonia’s public television programming. For example, the strategy of maintaining use of the Catalan language (passive bilingualism) is adopted if the guest or participant understands Catalan. Moreover, in television series produced in Catalonia, the Catalan characters maintain the use of their language when addressing Castilian speakers. Catalan has been converted into a common and public language through the production of television series in Catalan. The government also insists that linguistic integration should be accompanied by social cohesion. However, actions aimed at the promotion of the language are still seen as a nuisance. The general feeling is that, “We already have enough problems, and the last thing we need is to be required to maintain the use of Catalan in our conversations.” The problem is the lack of colloquialization on the part of Castilian speakers, who do not even consider the possibility of adapting to Catalan, since they have not colloquialized it very much. However, it should be remembered that, among Catalan speakers, a growing number with Castilian as their first language make the transition to Catalan easily and with great frequency. In conclusion, while the maintenance of Catalan as the language of instruction in Catalonia’s education system is critical for its dissemination to the general population, this does not solve the problems related to the use of Catalan in social contexts. There is no mimetic relation between the oral knowledge of Catalan and its social and habitual usage. For this reason, policies like the “local environment plans” are being developed with the goal of increasing the social presence of Catalan within the social contexts in which it is most weakly represented, in an effort to avoid social segregation and to foster contacts between Castilian and native Catalan students.

Intergroup History of Catalonia and Spain

Intergroup history is a basic consideration for CAT which theorizes about the role of sociohistoric context (Ehala, Giles, & Harwood, 2016). Intergroup history between interacting ethnic, cultural or national groups has proven to be a key indicator of communicative divergence (Giles, 2016).

Since group identities need to be pronounced communicatively, the attributes, both real and invented, which sustain the belief in a common ancestry are essential to the national identity among co-nationals (Barker, Giles, & Harwood, 2004; Livingstone, Haslam, Postmes, & Jetten, 2011; Reid, Giles, & Harwood, 2005). In this way, the sharing of a national identity produces emotional ties between conationals. As an ethnopolitical group, the relatively high national vitality of Catalans (Giles & Johnson, 1981; Ehala, 2015) and the perception that their situation is illegitimate implies communicative divergence with the Spanish national group (Gallois, 2003; Gallois & Giles, 2015; Giles, 2016; Giles & Gasiorek, 2013; Greenaway et al., 2016) and competitive strategies (Giles & Johnson, 1981; 1987). It is certain that not all intergroup relations result in relevant conflicts, but when this occurs it is important to keep in mind the context surrounding the conflict since it forces the groups to reevaluate their social positions (see Palomares, Giles, Soliz, & Gallois, 2016) with respect to the conflict without forcing them to modify their identity.

Medieval Origins

Catalans emphasize Catalonia’s medieval origins, highlighting the fact that the region already had an identity and a language of its own in the Middle Ages, an era when an autonomous Catalonia with distinct institutions and laws became one of the most important Mediterranean powers. For many Catalans, the only reason that Catalonia has not been recognized as a nation yet is because of the legacy of the oppression exerted by the Spanish yoke.

During the War of Spanish Succession, Catalonia supported the claim of the Austrian against the Bourbon dynasty, represented by Philip V. The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) confirmed Philip V as King of Spain and Catalonia had to fight against the powerful Franco-Castilian force. Catalonia lost its rights and freedoms on September 11, 1714, when, after a fourteen-month siege and a final attack from Franco-Castilian troops, Barcelona (capital city of Catalonia) surrendered. Felipe V commanded the dissolution of Catalan institutions and subdued Catalonia to a regime of occupation (Nueva Planta decrees). He banned the use and the teaching of the Catalan language and proclaimed Castilian Spanish as the official language. Of course, what for some meant the end of autonomy, was actually for others a step forward in the “national construction” of a modern nation state, following the French model of Louis XIV, the Sun King and Felipe V’s grandfather. Only Spanish Basque Country and Navarra maintained their regional laws. Catalonia and its symbols of Catalan national identity were plunged into a decline. In Catalonia, the celebration on September 11th of each year of the National Day of Catalonia (in commemoration of the defeat suffered in 1714) is an emotionally charged event in which history can be seen to be an active component in the development of group identity.

The 19th Century and the Early 20th Century

In the 19th century, a rising national and linguistic conscience began emerging in Catalonia. In the second third of the 19th century, awareness was driven by the Renaixença movement (Renaissance movement), which originated in a European context of Romanticism and the emergence of nationalism.

The movement began with cultural Catalanism, which had no other ambition but to revive Catalan language, history, and traditions. On the one hand, the Catalan bourgeoisie, which grew out of industrialization and economic growth, took ownership of the vindication of Catalan autonomy. On the other hand, Catalan culture incorporated Romanticism and defended nationalism and the historic, linguistic, and cultural past. The Renaixença campaigned for the recovery of Catalan as a literary language (archaic), with the Floral Games as an example.

As part of the development of cultural Catalanism, there were contributions by popular culture, which was supported by the continuous use of spoken Catalan language, and by several cultural demonstrations (choral music, theater, press, etc.), as well as by protests (anticentralist marches), represented by Federalists and Carlists. From federalism came regionalism, with Valentí Almirall and El Catalanisme (1886), the first theoretical formulation of political Catalanism. This newly revived national culture, spread at the end of the 19th century by modernism, served as a basis for political Catalanism, which didn’t gain full strength until the first third of the 20th century.

The Franco Dictatorship (1939–1975)

After the coup d’état by General Francisco Franco on July 18, 1936, against the Spanish Republic and the civil war that ended on April 1, 1939, a dictatorship was established throughout Spain under the absolute control of General Franco.

The Francoist repression of Spanish society already severely punished by the civil war had three perfectly defined fronts: political, cultural, and linguistic. In the first area, the entire democratic and party system of the Republic was liquidated, all activities and political or trade union organizations were banned, and full censorship was implemented. In Catalonia, autonomy was eliminated and the Statute of Autonomy in force at that time (Estatut de Núria) was abolished. In its place was created the office of the civil governor, the highest authority in Catalonia, who responded only to the dictatorial government in Madrid (capital of Spain). In the social sphere, the unions were suppressed and a Francoist policy was implemented that was clearly contrary to the interests of the working class and that was applied with repressive measures. In the cultural and linguistic fields, Francoism, acting through the leadership hierarchies installed in Madrid, using its provincial intermediaries, and acting via the Catalan Francoism, obtained definitive Spanish dominance of Catalonia. To do this, the Catalan language was liquidated as a means of public and official communication—reducing it to a “patois” for strictly domestic and private use, and linguistic and cultural uses of Catalan were also suppressed. To this end, actions were taken, such as the prohibition of all press or media written in Catalan, the almost total disappearance of books in the Catalan language, and the absolute “castellanización” of the public sphere, the educational system, and religious practices. With the death of Franco in 1975, transition to the restoration of democracy began.

Restoration of Democracy at the End of Franco’s Dictatorship (1975–2000)

As a result of popular pressure, and after long negotiations, Catalonia managed to obtain the return from exile of the president of the Catalonian government, as well as the approval of a Statute of Autonomy (1979; Statute of Sau), drafted by a commission of experts in Catalonia and then discussed with the Spanish state. On October, 25, 1979, the Statute of Sau was approved by referendum in Catalonia, with a score of 88%.

The 1980s and 1990s were dominated by a dynamic of constant political negotiation in order to improve the Statute of Autonomy and to promote the transfer of authority from the central state to Catalonia. It is worth highlighting that the Catalan government (nationalist and “pactist”) never involved itself in the Spanish government and was in a dynamic of constant negotiation about territorial politics. This attitude helped the Catalan government get very good results for the autonomy of Catalonia, but in the rest of Spain, it reinforced, among a very important part of Spanish public opinion, the already well-established stereotypes of Catalonian “stinginess,” “selfishness,” “lack of solidarity,” etc., up to the point of creating and promulgating the cliché that Catalonia was a most-favored region under successive Spanish governments. When the stereotypes are compared with the reality of the data provided by the relevant public policies, the stereotypes are shown to be absolutely untrue. Nevertheless, the stereotypes have been nourished by nationalist and essentialist Spanish parties and necessitated rebuilding of the Spanish national project, because the stereotypes had taken root in Spanish society and were, consequently, politically profitable in terms of votes. In other words, in the rest of Spain, anti-Catalanism gave Spanish essentialist parties many votes.

Escalation of Conflict (2003–2016): Strategy of Confrontation

People place themselves, as well as others, in social groups, and, in situations of conflict, group differences inevitably trigger discrimination and intergroup conflict strategies. Group identities depend essentially on recognition and acceptance from others (see Verkuyten, 2005, 2010) and, for many Catalans, the Spanish state has not been at all sensitive, not even to the most obvious manifestations of demands they consider fair and legitimate. Issues related to recognition and self-esteem are a very important part of the Catalans’ demands.

The two main strategies currently employed by the Spanish central government are maintenance and underaccomodation (see Giles & Gasiorek, 2013). The new Catalan government, formed after 2003 elections to fight back against continuous interference from the central government (which was then in complete anti-Catalanist mode), called for a reform of the Statute of Sau that would safeguard Catalan authority, hoping to get a less essentialist attitude from the current left-wing Spanish government. The reform of the statute went through a long negotiation, before suffering significant setbacks, originating not only from the Spanish essentialist party but also from the centralist left-wing party. For example, the term Nation was replaced by Nationality in the first article, and the article referring to Catalonia’s funding was largely deleted. The new version of the text was accepted by the Spanish Congress and Senate and was ratified in Catalonia on June, 18, 2006, in a referendum that resulted in 73% approval, with participation of 48.8% of voters. Once the Catalan statute was approved, with all the changes mentioned, the Spanish People’s Party started a campaign against the reform of the statute that led to four years of debates in the Constitutional Court and ended up with a judgment given on June 28, 2010, that affected 186 of the statute’s 223 articles. The judgment constituted backward movement with regard to the Statute of Sau of 1979, and rejected articles that had been accepted for other autonomous communities. The current statute, which went into effect for four years (2006–2010), without affecting in any way the operation of the Statute of Autonomy, was absurdly abrogated by an anti-Catalanist dynamic essentially sponsored by the Spanish People’s Party. Thus began an era marked by citizens’ response to the centralist policy that attacked the autonomy of Catalonia, and the dispute took proportions that far exceeded the parties’ ability to resolve it.

The discontent still prevails: the worldwide financial crisis, combined with people’s dissatisfaction with, and distrust of, politicians and political system in Catalonia, as well as the unfair treatment of Catalan’s fiscal deficit, have compounded Catalans’ discontent with the never-ending negative Spanish response to demands for increased Catalan political autonomy and the recognition of Catalonia as a nation within Spain.

The central state’s investments in Catalonia are perceived to be scandalously unjust: in 2015, the Central Executive implemented only 59% of what had been budgeted. This percentage is very much less than what was implemented overall in the autonomous communities. Spending in Catalonia for investment in infrastructure was only 9.9%, whereas Catalonia represents 18.9% of Spain’s economic production (statistics obtained from the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce). That is to say, Catalonia receives much less than it should, given its contribution to the Spanish economy. This trend has continued year after year, leading to an exorbitant deficit in infrastructure that has undermined Catalonia’s economic growth.

Conflict and Negotiation (2016—present)

The Spanish central government’s current two main strategies for dealing with Catalonia are maintenance and underaccomodation (see Giles & Gasiorek, 2013). Dialogue and direct contacts between the Catalan group and the Spanish government are very few, and group boundaries are strongly closed. As discussed by Giles, Reid, and Harwood (2010), the permeability of group boundaries and the intensity of contact have a combined effect upon conflict and hostility, so that high levels of intergroup conflict are common in situations of low group permeability and low contact between groups (see also Ehala, Giles, & Harwood, 2016; and Stohl, Giles, & Maass, 2016, for the importance of social networks in intergroup contact). Under these conditions (low permeability and low contact), people understand actions of communication as being intergroup, more than interpersonal, and assign the lack of understanding to their counterpart’s characteristics (see Major & Eliezer, 2010). Indeed, in 2017, conflict is a constinuing reality between Spain and Catalonia. It must be kept in mind that the current Spanish president as well as the executive-level members of his government have only twice made appearances in Catalonia in recent years and that the number of meetings between the Spanish and Catalan governments that have taken place in Madrid can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

The theory of self-categorization presupposes that people are at the same time individuals and group members, but, as social identities become more and more visible, self-perception is depersonalized (Turner et al., 1987). In other words, a person goes from considering him/herself a unique and independent entity to an interchangeable member of a visible group (Davies, Steele, & Markus, 2008). For example, in their research about people’s tolerance for diversity, Davies et al. (2008) showed that the in-group’s perception of threat predicted in-group solidarity. As perceived levels of threat increased, the in-group’s perception of solidarity grew, with specific messages to promote group identity. The findings obtained by Davies et al. can undoubtedly be applied to what is currently happening in Catalonia. However, because a very high level of group identification can generate depersonalization, it can lead to ethnocentric and political exacerbations. In other words, once there is an absolute assimilation of one’s personal identity to a specific group (intergroup identity), many other options for social interaction are left behind.

The peculiar nature of intergroup relationships is that they are never egalitarian, but always asymmetrical, leaving, as the result of discrimination, a favored group and an unfavored group. Can minority groups (minority from a normative, not numerical, point of view) exert some kind of influence to change the situation?

The influence of the minority is based on its capacity to create a conflict with the majority, with the objective of social change. At the same time, both groups must be able to lower the conflict during negotiation, and the conflict must be intense enough for the majority to be aware of the minority group’s position. From this point of view, the conflict is, in part, a driving force for change, and represents the possibility of altering intergroup relationships through the management of the conflict itself (Ellis & Maoz, 2012). As a result of the exclusion or marginalization (see Gasiorek, 2016; Giles & Gasiorek, 2013) exerted by the Spanish nation state, the conflict is today the clearest expression of Catalan collective identity. The conflict itself is an alteration of normality but should not be converted into a negative intergroup feature.

This reflection on intergroup communication in Catalonia leads highlights Catalan citizens’ different attitudes, especially those of intellectuals and politicians, toward what is understood as the “core essence” of Catalan cultural tradition. Following Giner’s typology (1998), four “ideal typologies” can be distinguished that have a high number of nuances: essentialism, pactism, Spanishness, and cosmopolitism.

Essentialism conceives of the Catalan nation as a natural, eternal, and immutable entity that is to be preserved in its pureness and protected against any contamination. According to essentialism, the greatest threat to Catalonia is the loss of its core essence, which defines its identity as a nation.

The tendency to covenant, or pactism, represents the tendency to negotiate in all circumstances in order to save all that can be saved, rejecting intransigent and hurried stances.

Centralist Spanishness refers to the rejection of Catalonia as a nation and the reduction of Catalan culture and language to a more-or-less picturesque variety of a united Spanish culture.

Cosmopolitism can manifest in two ways: on the one hand, cosmopolitans define themselves as world citizens, are unfavorable to any kind of Catalanism, and generally, but not always, hide a centralist Spanishness. On the other hand, cosmopolitans combine a universal vision of worldwide culture and a radical Catalan nationalism, from which they interrelate and collaborate with the world, from their own sovereignty. A quantitative approximation of each of these groups can be obtained from the study of Spanish and Catalan sense of group belonging conducted by the CEO from 2012 to 2016 (see Table 1).

When the data in Table 1 are applied to the four-group classification proposed by Giner (1998), both of them show a continuum from, at each of the extremes, the Spanish nationalists (the “Spanishists" in Catalonia) to the “Catalan essentialist and nationalist” group. Between them, are found the groups Giner referred to as “pactists” and “cosmopolitan.” The essentialists can be placed in the group that identifies as “Only Catalan” and the Spaniards in the group that identifies itself as “Only Spaniards.” The pactists would be a Catalanist group that extols Catalan symbols and traditions, defends the preservation of Catalan culture and language, and makes claims for greater levels of autonomy without expressing its political position through the parameters of essentialist nationalism. The sense of identity of Catalan pactists varies between “More Spanish than Catalan” and “More Catalan than Spanish.” Cosmopolitans are a small group, not as homogeneous as the previous ones, and move along the continuum. Accordingly, this group is strongly related to globalization and being “world citizens.” Its historic antecedent is the libertarian and proletarian internationalism that was very important in Catalonia before the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) as well as during the military conflict. Today, cosmopolitanism answers essentially to an elitist posture. The positioning of Catalans along the continuum also varies according to political circumstances.

Conclusions

The intergroup conflicts in Spain with the historic communities that have their own languages are nowadays ethnopolitical. In Catalonia, the conflicts involve high levels of discord and emotional difficulties that have persisted over many generations. This conflict is difficult because the two groups, Spaniards and Catalan nationalists, are very polarized (see Giles, 2015); Catalan nationalists see themselves as being economically exploited, treated unjustly, and unrecognized, and they consider their Spanish counterparts to be the cause of this turbulent situation. Within this overall picture, the symbolic stature of the Catalan language is of great importance in Catalonia today. It is marked by group awareness of cohesion and by group solidarity facing the Spanish state. The Catalan language is defended both by native Catalan speakers and by a large portion of native Spanish speakers. The Spanish state, from its unitary vision of the state, tries to counteract the expansion of the Catalan language, and thus weaken the sense of Catalan national identity.

The Spanish state has also applied intergroup strategies of communicative divergence, maintenance, and underaccommodation (see Giles, 2012, 2016; Giles & Gasiorek, 2013). What is certain is that a communication of convergent accommodation is especially important for understanding and controlling irresolvable conflicts (Ellis & Maoz, 2012). The current ethnopolitical conflict has a clear origin: the 2010 ruling against the statute of autonomy, a statute that the Catalans had accepted in a referendum. The Constitutional Court broke the rule with a legal coup d’etat of enormous consequences. For seven consecutive years Catalonia has officially requested to hold a referendum on self-determination, to be carried out with the agreement and support of Spain, and has never obtained any answer other than No. In seven years, Spain has never proposed an alternative, not even once.

In Spain there is an imbalance of power in which the qualities of the dominant Spanish group (ethnicity, language) are used as means of defining the national groups (Catalans, Galicians, and Basques) and of maintaining, in this way, power over them. In this respect, there is a conflict of identities. The dominant Castilian group does not recognize the identities of the national groups, something which is evidenced by its strategies of assimilation and application of power. Change and intergroup accommodation communication between Catalonia and Spain will be difficult to achieve, since both identities are so extremely polarized, strong, rigid, and stable (see Harwood, Giles, & Palomares, 2005). The relations between the parties in conflict are stereotyped as a result of poor information, characterized by self-justification and criticism of the adversary, as well as by a lack of rationality on the part of both groups. This context of prejudices, negative images, and stereotypes of the opponent, as well as a distorted evaluation and perception of the behavior of the members of the opposing group, plays a crucial role in the maintenance and intensification of intergroup animosity and reduces the intellectual resources available to deal with the information, promotes distorted perceptions, and escalates the conflict (Reid & Anderson, 2010). Affiliation with one side of the conflict substantially affects the way in which people perceive and interpret information related to the conflict by making them justify their position and negate the position of their opponent (Ehala et al., 2016; Maoz, 2004).

To summarize, the political relationship between Spanish and Catalan nationalists is characterized, above all, by a polarization of identities within the context of a permanent conflict, a conflict that worsens when Catalan nationalists try to express their identity. However, the parties, Spain and Catalonia─which are now in permanent ethnopolitical conflict─cannot escape from the necessity for the resolution of the economic issues and issues of recognition and self-governance that the Catalan nationalists have raised.

There is a strong emotional charge produced by perceiving a threat to one’s own identity as well as a perceived permanent aggression. Ethnopolitical conflicts usually involve negatively polarized identities for which one’s own sense of self is dependent on being in constant opposition to the other. It is worth mentioning, however, that the Catalan conflict is not comparable to other interethnic conflicts current in the world (which are defined by trauma caused by deaths), since, for the time being, there has been no violence, human suffering, or atrocities, and the conflict has taken place in a context of peace.

Nowadays, the nascent European federalist movement proposes to blur the borders between states in favor of a unified Europe. The federalist movement foresees an economic, political, and monetary unity, with a federal structure from top to bottom, with the aims of guaranteeing the survival of a multicultural Europe and maintaining its economic relevance on the world stage.

Further Readings

Barker, V., Giles, H., Noels, K., Duck, J., Hecht, M., & Clément, R. (2001). The English-only movement: A communication analysis of changing perceptions of language vitality. Journal of Communication, 51(1), 3–37.Find this resource:

Derks, B., Scheepers, D., & Ellemers, N. (2013). Neuroscience of prejudice and intergroup relations. New York: Psychology Press.Find this resource:

Dragojevic, M., Gasiorek, J., & Giles, H. (2016). Accommodative strategies as core of the theory. In H. Giles (Ed.), Communication accommodation theory: Negotiating personal and social identities across contexts (pp. 36–59). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.Find this resource:

Edwards, J. (2010). Minority languages and group identity. Cases and categories. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Find this resource:

Giles, H., & Maass, A. (Eds.) (2016). Advances in intergroup communication. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Guibernau (2013). Belonging: Solidarity and division in modern societies. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press.Find this resource:

McKeown, S., Haji, R., & Ferguson, N. (2016). Understanding peace and conflict through social identity theory. Contemporary global perspectives. New York: Springer.Find this resource:

Viladot, M. À. (1993). Identitat i vitalitat etnolingüística dels catalans [Catalan identity and ethnolinguistic vitality]. Barcelona: Columna editorial.Find this resource:

Viladot, M. À., & Esteban, M. (2009). Relacions entre la identitat catalana i la percepció de vitalitat etnolingüística en una mostra d’estudiants universitaris [Relations between Catalan identity and ethnolinguistic vitality perception in a university students sample] [paper on line]. Digithum, 11, UOC.Find this resource:

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