Research Notes from the Field, part 1 –or– Are radical politics more reasonable when your city looks like a fairytale?

So, I suppose I am technically “in the field” now, since I am not in London, and anywhere you do research away from your immediate vicinity is “the field.” Very well, here is the first of what I hope will be several posts from Barcelona and later, Shrewsbury where I am doing research on Transition Initiatives . This might end up being mostly a way for me to make sense of the interviews I’m doing here and start working out what is going to find its way into my dissertation, but hopefully it will be somewhat enjoyable for you as well.

Today, I met with Ale Fernandez at Roig21, the housing cooperative where he has been living for over a year. Ale used to live in the UK, and was also active in Transition Bristol (an initiative so successful that the mayor of Bristol now takes his whole salary in Bristol Pounds, the alternative local currency), so he was especially helpful in identifying some of the ways that  Transition and ecological activism look different here than in the UK. To whit:

In Raval

In Raval

  • The sense of identity that is bound up with a particular place is much more local here. This goes well beyond saying “Catalonia, not Spain;” some people would go as far as to say, “I’m Gracienc, not Barcelonan.” Thus the idea of relocalised economies makes a lot more sense, as there’s usually already a strong sense of neighbourhood identity.
  • Whereas in most English-speaking countries, the word “anarchist” is usually pejorative, and is used as en epithet to discredit various political and social groupings, here the word conjures up images of the anarcho-syndicalism that opposed Franco’s regime, especially in Catalonia. This has obvious connotations for any social movement that seeks to detach from a globalised system

More generally, my research has revealed that Barcelona is beautiful!  And as the title of this post suggests, I imagine it might be a bit easier to be incredibly optimistic about almost anything (prospects for societal change, for example) when you’re in such a sunny, vibrant setting.

Barcelona from Park Güell

Barcelona from Park Güell

Back to work, bozo!

Back to work, bozo!




2 responses to “Research Notes from the Field, part 1 –or– Are radical politics more reasonable when your city looks like a fairytale?

  1. great thoughts, dude!

    I’m back in MN now and wd love to hang out when/if you return.

    A middle way wd be to push for a system that tends to have two major parties and a whole lot of ltps, as I have long pushed for…

  2. Best week and a half of my life was spent in Barcelona! (Honeymoons are funny that way…) You’re a lucky man. Be sure to enjoy a bocadillo de tortilla española. My first night in Spain was spent in the part outside Sagrada Familia, eating a bocadillo as night crept in. Beautiful doesn’t begin to describe it…

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