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Banal nationalism and weather maps in the Basque Country

March 21, 2009


In his celebrated book, Banal Nationalism (1995), Michael Billig explores the mundane, generally unnoticed ways in which nationalism is reproduced, for example, through weather maps on television or in newspapers in which one’s own country (of residence) is highlighted using a different colour.

I was reminded of Billig’s book reading today’s El Pais newspaper. Under the heading El PSE y el PP avanzan en su intención de reformar a fondo la radiotelevisión vasca we are told that the pro-Spain socialists (PSE) and conservatives (PP), who are about to form a new government in the Basque Country following regional elections there,  intend to overhaul public radio and television (EITB) in the region. With no apparent irony, their stated aim is to ‘reinforce the defence of pluralism on public radio and TV, which they regard as leaning too heavily towards nationalism’ (excesivamente escorada hacia el nacionalismo) after decades of Basque nationalist (PNV) rule.

One of their first targets is precisely the current weather maps shown on regional TV. The aim is to ‘revise the whole symbolism’ (revisar toda la simbologia), leaving behind the present arrangement whereby Navarre and the French Basque Country are included in the weather maps as being integral parts of Euskal Herria (the Basque nationalists’ greater Basque Country, see both maps that accompany this post). In the proposed new weather maps, these neighbouring territories will now be ‘clearly differentiated’ from the Basque region proper (i.e. as defined by the pro-Spain parties – see the three provinces in lila below).

I find this to be a very interesting example of what we might call ‘asymmetrical nationalisms’: although both positions are equally nationalistic, El Pais attaches this label to the Basque variant only. The pro-Spain variant goes under the name of ‘pluralism’. In the long term, both camps seek to ‘normalise’ the region by means of their own version of banal nationalism, but at present they appear too evenly matched for that to happen. Cartoon: Clionauta blog.


7 Comments leave one →
  1. Elisenda permalink
    April 4, 2009 11:34 pm

    Si, es como aquel dicho que se ve la paja en el ojo ajeno y no se ve la biga en el propio! Lo primero que haran (a parte de cambiar el mapa del tiempo), me apuesto un euro, es “bilingüizar” la web de la EITB!

  2. Elisenda permalink
    April 4, 2009 11:45 pm

    Ups! sorry, la web ya está en trilingüe!

  3. April 16, 2009 2:09 pm

    Si, me cuentan en el Pais Vasco que el modelo que se quiere potenciar alli es el trilingue (pues con lo mal que se nos dan en Espanya los idiomas, me parece una propuesta un tanto ambiciosa, no? Una vez, en la parada del autobus Llorente de Boadilla del Monte, un chaval me contaba que era profesor de ingles, aunque apenas conocia esta lengua. “Total, como son ninyos, no se van a dar cuenta”, me aclaro).

  4. Montserrat Clua permalink
    October 31, 2010 4:37 pm

    Hi! I’m working in Catalan nationalism and, working on a paper about “forging the nation” through weather predictions on daily TV news, I’ve found your blog. A very interesting discovery for me. Your comments about Basque case reflect of what is exactly happening on public Catalan TV. It’s a so evident situation for me that I was astonished (until I’ve found your blog!) that no one had published about it (except Billig).
    I celebrate (as an EASA anthropologist too) to know of you and your work. I will continue looking your posts. I think that your current research on social media in Catalonia is very interesting (and unlimited…!). Now I’m doing fieldwork on the “referendums” on Catalan independence and the use of social media it’s very important for the case studied.
    Best regards (also) from Barcelona


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