. 5
( 11)


¬rst developed; there was little evidence of ethnic, religious, or linguistic
antagonism or exclusion prior to that time (Little 1994; Tambiah 1992).
During the 1957 elections, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike ran a militant
campaign promising passage of a ˜˜Sinhala only™™ language law aimed at
reversing the situation. Language issues in the Sri Lanka con¬‚ict provided
the spark that ignited deeper resentments re¬‚ecting the Sinhalese majority™s
long-standing sense of injustice that had been simmering for over a century
(de Silva 1981; Kapferer 1988; Little 1994).
Language served as the focal point in the newly independent country
(then called Ceylon), but it was clear that the con¬‚ict was about deep
resentments over social privilege and political control. Bandaranaike came
to power as a leader who appealed to Buddhist revivalist themes that
once unleashed were hard to contain. A militant monk, believing that
Bandaranaike had betrayed his people when he reached a compromise
agreement with the Tamils, assassinated him in 1959, and militant
organizations advocating extreme violence formed in both communities
Where is Barcelona?

to ¬ght not only the other side but also the more moderate forces in their
own group (Little 1994). By the mid 1980s a massacre of Tamils in the
capital Colombo with apparent government complicity set off a new
round of ¬ghting and demands for a Tamil homeland in the north and
east of the country. At one point India invaded the country in an
unsuccessful effort to restore peace. The continued escalation and long-
term ¬ghting has eclipsed the original language issues and the speci¬c
demands for af¬rmative action associated with them.
Not all language con¬‚icts escalate the way the Sri Lanka con¬‚ict did.
Two long-standing ethnic con¬‚icts in which language played a prominent
role that have been managed more successfully in recent years are those in
Canada and Spain. Both countries are multicultural states, although Spain
is not willing to publicly de¬ne itself this way. In Canada, French-
´becers are a linguistically and territorially de¬ned minority.
speaking Que
In addition, there are native peoples throughout the country, and large
groups of immigrants from dozens of other countries. Spain has struggled
for centuries to control its territory and to impose a single culture within
its borders. In the ¬fteenth and sixteenth centuries, Muslims and Jews
were expelled and the expanding state exercised increasing control in
parts of the north as well. Yet there are historic nations within northern
Spain “ Catalans, Basques, and Galicians and other groups that claim
varying degrees of distinctiveness. Each of these still speaks their own
language, as well as Castilian Spanish. At times in each of these regions
there have been calls for independent statehood and the use of politics,
and sometimes violence, to pursue it.
Both Quebecers and Catalans identify themselves as a distinct people
or nation with their own history and territory, but in both cases only a
minority (in the case of Quebec a large minority) has supported demands
for independent statehood. At the same time, in both Canada and Spain
today there is wide support for speci¬c language and cultural rights, and a
willingness to accord these regions the political autonomy to implement
them effectively. The challenge involves speci¬c administrative and
resource demands as well as periodic con¬‚icts that take the form of
psychocultural dramas emphasizing identity and culture. Only when these
dramas develop ritually inclusive expressions can the parties live together
in a more or less constructive manner.3 In both Que ´bec and Catalonia this

An obvious contrast is between the Catalans and the Basques. Although it is interesting, it
is not my focus here (see Conversi 1997; Laitin 1995).

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

seems to have been achieved in the past thirty years, although there
remain unresolved issues between the regions and the state in both cases.
These cases are worth looking at because they are important examples of
how cultural con¬‚icts can be managed in non-violent ways while meeting
many of the core needs of the small nations that exist within larger states
and of the larger states as well.

Language and Quebec nationalism
Canada is a large, sparsely populated country that cross-national data
show to be one of the most stable and successful multicultural democ-
racies. Nonetheless, it is a country that has experienced intense, but non-
violent, con¬‚icts over identity and inclusion/exclusion. While Canada was
originally a French colony centered in Quebec, the British gained control
over it as a result of the Seven Years War (or what is called the French and
Indian War in North America) that raged from 1756 to 1763. In 1759, the
British captured Quebec City in a brief battle on the Plains of Abraham
that left the generals on both sides dead. Four years later, the 1763 Peace
Treaty ceded French Canada to the British, a traumatic and still emo-
´becers call ˜˜The Conquest™™;4 a psychological
tionally charged event Que
abandonment since the French chose to retain Guadalupe over Que
Quebecers have struggled with how to refer to the past and Maclure
describes the tension in their narrative as ˜˜melancholic nationalism™™ that
recalls the pre-conquest period as a kind of Golden Age that was lost, the
struggle to recover it in the repeated failures to refound the country, and
an anti-nationalist, cosmopolitan narrative, often associated with former
Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau that minimizes the
impact of the Conquest and calls upon French Canadians to accept
responsibility for their fate (Maclure 2004: 41).
´bec maintained its language, Catholic religion
Under the British, Que
and culture, and legal system. In the nineteenth century, there were
various forms of resistance to British colonial rule and struggles to
maintain French culture, language and political autonomy as the

The loss in Volkan™s terms is a chosen trauma, a humiliating defeat that cannot be worked
through and is transmitted across generations. The ¬lm ˜˜The QuebeCanada Complex™™
portrays this in explicitly psychoanalytic terms (Wintonick and Tassinari 1998).
Quebec license plates contain the phrase ˜˜Je me souviens™™ (I remember). The question is
what is remembered. When asked, some Quebecers say it is trauma of the conquest, while
others say they remember their language and culture.

Where is Barcelona?

proportion of French speakers in Canada decreased. The main strategies
for cultural survival involved strong church control over society and
institutions such as education and social services, a primarily rural society
that had little contact with Anglophones, and collaboration between
French and English speaking elites in Montreal. The twentieth-century
decline of rural society and the emigration of young Quebecers to the
United States and other parts of Canada posed new challenges to cultural
survival and by the 1960s the Francophones pushed for a more equal role,
especially in the economy, and sought to become ˜˜masters in their own
house™™ (ma±tres chez nous) in what was dubbed ˜˜The Quiet Revolution.™™
However, as English Canada began to hear and meet francophone
demands for parity and bilingualism, a more militant Quebec nationalism
arose that demanded either sovereignty in the form of an independent
Quebec or the replacement of the English language in public life in the
region, creating a series of psychocultural dramas ¬lled with high tension
and anxiety for both English and French citizens (Waddell 1986).
Language issues became the rallying point of the nationalist movement
and its demands for political change but the cultural identity issues raised
were much broader (Eller 1999: ch. 7). When the Parti Quebecois (PQ)
came to power in November 1976, street celebrations turned Montreal
was into a veritable ˜˜collective effervescence that Durkheim imagined as
central to the social order™™ (Handler 1988: 14).
Camille Laurin, the PQ Minister of State for Cultural Development,
´becer identity, and language policy as
saw language as central to Que
˜˜collective psychotherapy™™ necessary to undo the effects of conquest and
domination (Levine 1991: 113). The following year the new Quebec
government introduced Bill 1, ˜˜The Charter of the French Language™™
that included regulations mandating the use of French in government
of¬ces and large businesses along with ¬nes for their violation, and
emotionally provocative phrases such as ˜˜the French language is the
language of the Quebecois people.™™ Opponents called it a violation of
basic human rights and soon the government rewrote their proposal
removing the more provocative language but keeping its substance intact.
Bill 101 was passed making French the of¬cial language of the region. It
required government of¬ces and municipalities to conduct their business
in French and made French the language of instruction in public schools.
Access to English language schools was limited to those whose parents
had attended English speaking schools themselves, thus excluding par-
´bec. While the
ental choice for the large number of immigrants in Que
Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

education provisions were the focus of much attention, the ones that
required that public signs be in French were in some ways the most
controversial. Over half the cases the Commission for the Protection of
the French Language considered involved violations of its provisions
(Levine 1991: 176). ˜˜Bill 101 culminated the push, begun during the
Quiet Revolution, to assert Francophone hegemony in Montreal, and the
laws quickly gained near-consensual support within the French-speaking
community as the legal and symbolic cornerstone of the Francophone
Reconquest™™ (Levine 1991: 119).
´bec and in the next two
Many English speakers emigrated from Que
decades there were two referenda on independence, the second of which
in 1995 lost by only 1.2%.6 Since then, however, issues of language and
sovereignty are less charged and public support for independence has
dropped a good deal. Some suggest that intergenerational change has
made the younger adults who grew up in a fully francophone Que
along with the emergence of a Quebec literature, cinema, and music,
more secure in their identity than earlier generations. English speakers
have come to terms with the language law, and French speakers are in
practice likely to be bilingual. Recently, an alternative narrative has
´bec as one of several small nations without states
emerged that views Que
like Brittany, Wales, and Catalonia that have survived and prospered
(Guibernau 1997; Keating 2001). This narrative connects Quebec to
other places from which it can obtain support and the reassurance that
there are other minority cultures and identities that survive without their
own state. One consequence is a diminished sense of isolation and
vulnerability. As former separatist and Montreal mayor Pierre Bourque
said, ˜˜Now that we have saved the culture, we don™t need independence™™
(Krauss 2003).

˜˜Language normalization™™ and identity in Catalonia
Catalonia, a region in northeast Spain, is a nation of about 6 million
people which, like Quebec, is larger in population than either Norway or
Ireland (Figure 5.1). Catalans have a long history including periods of

The narrow loss unleashed a diatribe on election night by Jacques Parizeau, the PQ leader,
against Quebec™s immigrants who, he charged, did not have the same commitment to the
nation as the ˜˜real™™ Quebecers, meaning the descendants of the original French

Where is Barcelona?

Figure 5.1 Spanish nationalities and regions

self-rule, a distinct language7 and culture, emotionally powerful symbols
and sacred sites, a clear identity, and a vibrant economy.8 Once part of an
independent kingdom of Catalonia-Aragon, Catalonia has been incor-
porated into the Spanish state for hundreds of years. Nonetheless, the
nature of this relationship has regularly been contested and renegotiated,
as has Spain™s relationship with its other historic nations. Since the early
eighteenth century language issues have frequently been a central point of
contention between Catalonia and Madrid with the central government
seeking to impose Castilian and many Catalans seeking linguistic auto-
nomy.9 Examining the Catalan and Spanish narratives reveals how the parties
frame the key issues and what they see at stake with Madrid emphasizing
that modern countries have a single language that expresses the nation™s
political unity and Catalonia saying it is a historic nation not willing to give
up its language and culture. Since Franco™s death in 1975, con¬‚ict has been

Catalan is a romance language, most related to Provencal. It should not be considered a
dialect of Castilian (Woolard 1989: 13).
These features are typically those that are found among national groups making claims to
an independent state (Laitin 1989).
Laitin (1989) makes it clear that at various times Catalan elites were more than willing to
be multilingual as they saw advantages to being part of a larger political and economic unit.

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

played out through political channels and civil society despite signi¬cant
tension at times. How this was possible needs some explanation given the
widely held view that ethnic con¬‚icts escalate quickly and easily turn
violent and the importance of studying con¬‚ict mitigation success rather
than only just failures. The story is one of increasing inclusiveness;
although change is not always even and there are moments of high
con¬‚ict there has been little or no violence, as we see below in the account
of identity representation in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
Catalans are a people with a strong national identity de¬ned around
language, culture, and a shared history with pre-modern roots, features
that Smith (1999) ¬nds in many national identities. Catalans trace their
existence as a nation to the end of the tenth century when the Catalan
Counts became independent from the Franks and created an empire
that controlled a good deal of territory in the western Mediterranean
between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries.10 Catalans recount this
period as one of a ¬‚ourishing of culture and their experience as an early
democracy. This Catalan Golden Age begins to decline with the Black
Death in the fourteenth century, famines, and internal revolts. Catalonia
became part of the Habsburg Empire through marriage, drawn into wars
in the Iberian Peninsula, and ¬nally absorbed into Spain under Felipe V
when the Catalans supported the losing side in the War of the Spanish
Succession. The defeat, on September 11, 1714, brought a ˜˜catastrophic
loss of autonomy™™ and marks the most sacred day in the Catalan civil
Catalan elites were bilingual for a long time often speaking Catalan in
domestic situations and using Castilian, the language of the Spanish
administration in business and commerce (McDonogh 1986b). While
Catalan declined as a literary language it always served as the lingua franca
for the region. In decrees issued between 1768 and 1771, Carlos III
ordered that schooling throughout Spain be in Castilian (Woolard 1989:
21). However, it was another 100 years before the Spanish state managed
to create a school system and by then there had been a revival of Catalan

The Catalan history museum in Barcelona and a 15 minute video they sell recounts a
narrative that emphasizes the Neolithic and Roman origins of the Catalan people and the
signi¬cance of their early history and culture. There is a good deal presented on the
archeological evidence from the region and the history of Catalonia, with an emphasis on
its cultural and political achievements. More recent developments, including much of the
twentieth century, in contrast, are presented relatively brie¬‚y. Clearly, the message that
a real nation has a long history is a crucial part of the museum™s narrative.

Where is Barcelona?

national sentiments and an accompanying linguistic and cultural revival,
the Renaixenca (Renaissance). Language pride was an integral part of
nineteenth and early twentieth-century Catalan nationalism, and political
and cultural movements emerged that emphasized Catalonia as a distinct,
historic nation. A number of writers describing Catalan political culture
use the term ˜˜pactism,™™ a view of life emphasizing free agents who bar-
gain and negotiate among themselves, calling it ˜˜a useful way to under-
stand the way con¬‚ict is managed in Catalonia down to the present day,
the strategies that are adopted and the processes of accommodation that
occur; and this is especially important when examining the way Catalan
elites deal with each other and with the central powers™™ (Hargreaves
2000: 20“21).11
Twice in the ¬rst half of the twentieth century, a period of rapid
industrialization and social movements, Catalonia gained signi¬cant
autonomy from Madrid “ ¬rst during the Mancumunitat (1913“1925) and
then under the Second Republic in the 1930s “ only to see it removed
when direct rule from Madrid was reimposed. During these periods use of
Catalan in the mass media, in cultural, and in educational settings
expanded. When Franco came to power in 1939 after a bitter civil war, he
was determined to smash regional nationalisms and build the strong state
that had been the dream, but not the achievement, of Spanish rulers for
centuries. Furthermore, Franco had little sympathy for Catalonia, a
region that gave strong support to the Spanish Republicans during the
Civil War, and he wanted to crush its separatist sentiments and leaders.
Initially Franco™s rule in Catalonia was harsh and many intellectuals
and political activists went into exile in France, Mexico and elsewhere.12
Many less fortunate were imprisoned, where several hundred thousand
died or were killed. Franco abolished the statute of autonomy, banned all
Catalan political and cultural organizations and prohibited the use of the
Catalan language. All Catalan language signs and notices were ordered
removed, books were burned, Catalan culture was banned as a subject at
the University of Barcelona and teachers suspected of nationalist sym-
pathies were transferred outside the region and replaced by teachers from
other parts of Spain. Even Catalan names were banned (McRoberts 2001:
40“41; Woolard 1989: 28“29). The attack on the language was ferocious

Some writers link this to the importance of commerce and business in Catalonia and the
There was a Catalan government in exile in France throughout the Franco period.

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

and citizens were exhorted to ˜˜Speak Catholic™™ (meaning Castilian) in
signs and posters the Franco government posted throughout the region.
Following World War II, the regime became less harsh as it was more
secure and at the same time it sought a place in the western, anti-
Communist alliance. Although the Catalan language was still of¬cially
banned, there was some public reappearance of it beginning in the 1950s.
The Catholic Church™s decision to conduct some services in Catalan was
emotionally and symbolically signi¬cant, as was the site they chose to
¬rst do this “ the Abbey of Montserrat, a sacred site for Catalans, and
Vatican II further encouraged Catalan priests to use the vernacular,
meaning Catalan, in mass. The Franco regime tolerated some use of
Catalan provided it did not directly challenge the regime as nationalists
did in 1959 when they stood and sang the banned Catalan national
anthem in the Barcelona Opera House one night when a number of
Franco™s of¬cials were present.13 For his role in organizing this and
other protests, Jordi Pujol, who became the leader of the Catalan gov-
ernment in 1980, received a seven-year prison sentence of which he
served two and a half years (Conversi 1997: 120). By Franco™s death in
1975, Catalan was used much more freely in public but not in education
or the media.
The fact that language is at the emotional core of Catalan identity
(McDonogh 1986a: 11; Roller 2002) and the efforts of various regimes in
Madrid to suppress it have only made Catalans more adamant about the
language™s emotional signi¬cance and the memories of the lost past it
evokes. When Franco died in 1975 many expected disorder and violence,
not the orderly political transition that King Juan Carlos, his designated
successor, presided over with rapid movement toward democratic rule.
All major political parties and civil society participated in the transition,
including opponents of Franco who had returned from exile. Leaders
negotiated a new democratic Constitution while the European Commu-
nity made it clear that membership would be open to a democratic Spain.
The king became a stronger than expected voice for democratization
whose support was never doubted after his refusal to support a military
coup in 1981.
As the transition began, it was clear to all that there would be sig-
ni¬cant Catalan demands for a return to regional autonomy and linguistic
expression. Both were achieved within a few years and the 1979 autonomy

Perhaps they were inspired after having seen Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.

Where is Barcelona?

statute recognized Catalan as the of¬cial language of Catalonia, and
Castilian as the of¬cial language of the Spanish state.14 The Catalan
desire for their language to be on a par with Castilian in the region was
not the same thing as making it happen, however. To do that required
both the development of linguistic competence in Catalan and the
attainment of equal respect for it and for its speakers (Kymlicka 1998). At
least two signi¬cant problems faced proponents: ¬rst, because of the
suppression of Catalan during the Franco years, there were many people
who could speak Catalan but who were not able to read or write it;
second, because of the strong Catalan economy that Franco had
encouraged, the region had attracted many immigrants from other parts
of Spain who were monolingual Castilian speakers. It was not obvious
they would have an interest in learning a regional language.
Both of these challenges have been overcome since 1980 with fewer
problems than many anticipated so that the region is now functionally
bilingual, although there are still moments of tension in interpersonal
interactions and Castilian speakers sometimes suggest that Catalans can
be overly strident in their demeanor. While schools in the region differ in
how they use Catalan and Castilian as languages of instruction, in all cases
students learn both to a high degree of pro¬ciency. Woolard and Gahng
describe the rapid increase in use of Catalan in schools, the spread of
¬‚uency, and the language™s relatively high status among both Castilian
and Catalan native speakers (1990: 321“22).15 Data from the mid-1990s
show that 95% of the people living in Catalonia understand Catalan, 75%
speak it, and almost half can write it. The population is evenly split in
terms of whether they use Castilian or Catalan as their ¬rst language at
home and with close friends (McRoberts 2001: 8“9). Roller (2002: 285“87)
sees greater tension over recent linguistic policy and argues that since 1997
Catalan nationalists are no longer interested in linguistic parity and that
linguistic policy is increasingly exclusivist in its goals and practices.
Why language change or what the Catalans call, ˜˜language normal-
ization™™ proved to be far less con¬‚ictual than many people had expected
Once Catalonia, Galicia, and the Basque regions gained autonomy, the demands were
made from other parts of the country for the same status. The country is now divided into
seventeen Autonomous Regions. Despite its strong decentralization in practice, Spain
does not refer to itself as a federation nor as a multicultural state.
Woolard (1989) reports that by the mid-1980s 86% of the schools in the region used
Catalan as the medium of instruction in at least some subjects and that 62% of elementary
schools had primarily Catalan instructional programs. These numbers are surely higher

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

requires some explanation.16 What is especially striking is the spread of
Catalan among immigrants from other parts of Spain and the willingness
of their children to learn and use the language. One simple explanation
about why this has occurred is that Catalan is not dif¬cult for Castilian
speakers to learn. While this might be the case, by itself it is not very
compelling since there are many cases of resistance to learning and using a
language irrespective of how easy or hard it is to learn. More persuasive is
the idea that immigrants see settling in Catalonia as relatively permanent
and view language as central to their successful integration. Interestingly,
where working-class immigrants might have been expected to oppose
language normalization, one explanation of why this has not been the case
is that they too had suffered during the Franco years and could easily
identify with the Catalan experience. Both the Socialist and Communist
parties who appealed to these people supported language normalization
provided it did not hurt Castilian speakers.17
Certainly relevant as well is that as determined as Catalans were to
change language policy following Franco, there was also keen awareness
that it had to be done in a non-authoritarian manner that would protect
the rights of Castilian speakers. Success, many understood, would depend
upon good will and voluntary compliance, not heavy-handed tactics. This
policy was facilitated in great part because immigrants and their children
viewed Catalan as a high status language. Woolard and Gahng report that
Catalans are positively disposed to Castilian speakers who learn and use
Catalan. ˜˜It no longer matters so much to Catalans who speaks Catalan,
but rather simply that it is spoken™™ (1990: 326). Laitin (1989) suggests

In 1983 the Catalan government passed an Act for Linguistic Normalization that was
replaced by the Act on Linguistic Policy of 1998. One of the aims of the Linguistic
Normalization Act was to make Catalan a normal working language in public
administration. Public of¬cials and civil servants must have a knowledge of Catalan.
However, each citizen has the right to use either Castilian or Catalan when dealing with
the administration. Of¬cial documents are published in both languages. Catalan can be
used in court, although this is often hampered by a lack of knowledge of the language
among the judiciary. The 1983 Act stipulated that Catalan should be the normal language
of education at all levels and by 1999“2000, 90% of the primary schools in the region taught
students Catalan while 51% of the secondary schools taught all subjects in Catalan and
employed a mixture of Catalan and Spanish for the remaining subjects. In Catalan
universities any student or professor is entitled to use either Castilian or Catalan. In addition,
there is also a large network of adult education in Catalan (Catalan Department
of Education, 2002 Annual Report).
For more details on the dynamics at work in the immediate post-Franco period see
DiGiacomo (1986).

Where is Barcelona?

that tipping points are an important mechanism in linguistic change
situations and that once language use reaches a certain level, it rapidly
increases and that indeed this occurred in Catalonia during the 1980s.
Probably crucial too is the pragmatic and generally non-racial
nature of contemporary Catalan identity “ one that is inclusive and non-
confrontational. Jordi Pujol, the head of the Catalan regional government
for more than twenty years starting in 1980, was often quoted as saying
that a Catalan is a person who lives and works in Catalonia and wants to
be Catalan (Guibernau 1997). While for many this strongly implied that
such a person also speaks Catalan, this means that immigrants from other
regions and their children could become Catalans. There is no genealo-
gical or racial test “ no gatekeepers patrolling the boundary and turning
away undesirables. Woolard and Gahng contend that Catalan is not an
exclusive, ethnic language signaling identity, but a public one (1990: 327)
although there are certainly some Castilian speakers whose perceptions of
Catalans are more exclusive than they suggest. Their ¬nding is, however,
echoed in McRoberts™ (2001: 171“75) data that shows that language
attitudes are least politicized among young people. He suggests that the
twenty-¬ve years that have passed since Franco™s death have signi¬cantly
lowered the affect associated with linguistic choice in a bilingual society
with many cross-cutting ties.
Non-Catalan-speaking immigrants and their children integrate rela-
tively easily into Catalan society for the boundaries between Catalans and
Castilians are relatively permeable and identity is de¬ned in cultural,
rather than racial, terms. The boundaries themselves, however, are not
necessarily clear and distinctions are sometimes made between indigenous
Catalans and newcomers even when they are ¬‚uent in Catalan. In addi-
tion, historically there were often class differences, with indigenous
Catalans much more likely to be middle class and to have their own
businesses (Hargreaves 2000: 35“37). Despite these differences, there
were, and are, frequent intermarriage, mobility, and harmonious relations
between people in part because the prestige of the language and region
makes newcomers quite willing to learn it (Hargreaves 2000: 37).
Most Catalans do not particularly insist that people choose between
their Spanish and Catalan identities. Numerous surveys have asked people
whether they see themselves as Catalan or Spanish or both and regularly
show that a sizeable, and increasing, majority answer both. People
do not believe these are incompatible choices or that these identities
are determined at birth. Hargreaves points out that ˜˜the criteria of
Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

membership are cultural, and cultural credentials, unlike race or ancestry,
can, in principle, be acquired™™ (2000: 34). Keating makes a similar point,
noting, ˜˜The language is seen as a crucial element in social solidarity and
community values but not as an ascriptive marker. There is an emphasis
on history and culture and on institutions, but with little concern with
race or descent. This gives Catalan nationalism a strong civic, as opposed
to ethnic, character™™ (Keating 1996: 133).18
Catalans have long seen themselves as the most European people in
Spain. They draw attention to the long history of contact with France in
particular and emphasize that the greater cosmopolitanism of Catalonia
and its earlier modernization than other parts of Spain is due to its
greater interaction with the New World and Europe. This is a source of
pride for Catalans, and emphasizing links to Europe helps Catalans
differentiate themselves from Madrid. But it is also a source of tensions,
as when, for example, under Pujol, Catalans sought representation on
European government bodies, signed formal agreements with regions in
other countries, and were able to get the European Parliament to
recognize Catalan as a European language (Keating 1996: 158).19 Of
course the substantive signi¬cance of these steps is far less clear than
their emphasis on the importance of recognition and legitimacy for
Finally, Conversi (1997) and Hargreaves (2000) among others,
emphasize that elite openness and self-con¬dence affect the expression of
political nationalism in Catalonia in ways that create room for people to
be both Catalan and Spanish. This means that while there are tensions
and differences, and sometimes simply living and working in Catalonia is
not enough to make someone fully Catalan (Hargreaves 2000: 35), there is
a pattern in which identity disputes remain manageable; there are ways for
the parties, whether individuals in the region or the Catalan government
and Madrid, to manage them more or less constructively and without
violence. We see these mechanisms at work in the story of the symbolic
expression of identity during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The distinction between civic and ethnic nationalism is widely used (Ignatieff 1993; Smith
1991), although some ¬nd it too neat and problematic in important ways (e.g., Shulman
2002; Yack 1996).
Catalan is one of many minority languages in Europe. An interesting overview of them is
found at the website of an NGO, the European Bureau of Lesser Used Languages
(EBLUL, http://eblul.org) that ˜˜speaks on behalf of over 40 million EU citizens who
speak a different language than the majority language of their State.™™

Where is Barcelona?

Catalan distinctiveness and the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games: a
psychocultural drama over symbolic displays
In the post-Franco period, the Catalan commitment to language and
cultural autonomy within Spain caused many heated moments but no real
crises. The Spanish constitution writing project was inclusive, emphasiz-
ing consensus building, and there was widespread recognition that the
Franco policies of centralization and cultural suppression were inap-
propriate for a country seriously committed to democratization and des-
perately wanting admission to the European Community. For the most
part, the transition was remarkably peaceful although there were many
symbolic skirmishes and moments when hard-core nationalists in both
Barcelona and Madrid protested against what was happening.
In many ways neither side fully recognize how successful it has been
in achieving its goals and in preventing small irritating incidents that
regularly occurred from escalating to the point where they became violent
or unmanageable.20 Yet there is some lingering uneasiness in the Catalan
relationship with the Spanish government at times. The state regularly
seeks more acknowledgment of how generous it has been in granting
autonomy to Catalonia. It is also annoyed when Catalans emphasize
their ties to Europe and deemphasize those to Madrid.21 Catalans, for
their part, feel vulnerable at times and seek reaf¬rmation of their national
identity from the rest of Spain. This dynamic is revealed in a psycho-
cultural drama surrounding the 1992 Olympic Games held in Barcelona.
In 1986 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded Barcelona
the 1992 Summer Games and the Spanish saw this as a terri¬c opportunity
to present post-Franco Spain to the world. (Madrid was named the cultural
capital of Europe, and Seville, in Andalusia, hosted a World™s Fair in
1992 as well.) While the politics of the choice of Barcelona as a site is

This pattern is very consistent with what Morton Deutsch (1973) calls benevolent
misperception in which parties who regularly cooperate are able to not see as provocative
the actions of others that under less positive conditions would lead to increased tension
and escalation of con¬‚ict.
For example, the video from the Catalan history museum ends with the following words
which offer no explicit acknowledgment that Catalonia is part of Spain: ˜˜Catalonia has
been, and is, a European country: pluralistic, with integration aims, creative, open to
modernity, a country that maintains its symbols of identity as a nation. From a
contemporary perspective, the new challenges are clear: the European uni¬cation, the
establishment of a solid coexistence among the peoples of the Mediterranean, and a new
world order.™™

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

probably quite interesting,22 here I focus on the series of symbolic
con¬‚icts playing out Catalan and Spanish narratives in the years, and
especially months, just before and during the games. Acrimonious con-
¬‚icts over questions such as language, ¬‚ags, anthems, order of marching,
ceremonies surrounding the Olympic torch, uniforms, and the structure
of the opening ceremony all drew attention to the latent tensions in the
relationship between Catalonia and Madrid. As Hargreaves (2000) points
out, however, in the end the fact that both the Spanish and the Catalans
understood the limits beyond which they could not go produced a win-
win outcome that solidi¬ed both Catalan autonomy and, paradoxically,
their connection to the Spanish state, not their subservience to it. The
emotionally powerful issues were managed without violence or a break-
down of relationships and both Catalans and Spaniards believed that the
games were a huge success. The outcome is the sort of ritual resolution
that Turner (1957; 1973) talks about “ one that emphasizes what is shared
even though not all the underlying differences between the parties are
necessarily resolved.
Hargreaves examines the symbolic politics surrounding the games and
provides great detail concerning ˜˜the war of the ¬‚ags™™ and the other
symbolic battles that he frames in terms of Catalanization versus Espano-
lization of the Olympics (2000: 59“95). Once Spain and Barcelona were
awarded the games, the responsibility for organizing and ¬nancing them fell
to the Spanish government, which paid the largest share, the Generalitat
(the Catalan government controlled by Pujol™s center-right party), the
government of Barcelona and its Catalan socialist mayor, the Spanish
Olympic Committee, and the European Community that contributed
toward the infrastructural changes in the city. The competing agendas of
these groups, as well as those of nationalist groups in Catalonia, made for a
far tenser run-up to the games than what most of the world observed during
the Olympics themselves. Each of the parties had an interest in the games™
success but each had its own ideas about what success would look like.
The Socialist government in Madrid wanted to give the world the message
that Spain was indeed now a mature, modern democracy, a different
country than during the Franco era. Barcelona sought support for urban
renewal and modernization of its infrastructure. The Catalan government
saw the games as an opportunity to enhance the prestige, economic

It is very relevant that the International Olympic Committee president, Juan Antonio
Samaranch, was Catalan.

Where is Barcelona?

development, and autonomy of the region. In addition, within Catalonia
hard-line nationalists, Pujol and his ruling CiU Party, and Barcelona
Mayor Pasqual Maragall, a Catalan socialist and head of the Barcelona
Games Organization Committee, had competing electoral interests.
As a result, both contemporary political concerns and unresolved past
issues provided more than enough material for the intense emotions that
were played out in symbolic con¬‚icts as the games approached.
Describing them as symbolic, however, is not meant either to diminish
their signi¬cance to those involved or to ignore the fact that there were
several moments when it seemed that the confrontations could turn ugly
and perhaps violent. Rather, it is more useful to understand the power of
symbolic and ritual issues to capture fundamental differences in how
different sides conceive of the appropriate relationship between Catalonia
and Spain.
It would be a great mistake here to think that displaying the national ¬‚ag, singing
the national anthem, using the national language, putting on displays featuring
national dance and national sports, and so on, was mere play-acting and posturing,
or somehow a substitute for real action. The deployment of national symbols
around the Games provided a direct link to the fundamental issue of Catalonia™s
autonomy and Spanish and Catalan identity.
(Hargreaves 2000: 162)

The Olympic Games of¬cially opened on July 25, 1992 but for the
previous ¬ve months there were skirmishes around every imaginable
symbolic element of the games given the decision that the Games would
re¬‚ect Catalan culture, although what this exactly meant was always vague.
There were also Catalan protests against the games themselves and pro-
tests against redevelopment that destroyed some working-class areas of
Barcelona. Pressure to Catalanize the games came from a variety of
nationalist groups and Pujol, at times, gave a good deal of support to
them.23 Even the question of the mascot became politicized, and nation-
alists strongly criticized the one adopted as not even remotely Catalan.
The Games™ organizers realized that trouble was a real possibility when
three years prior to the opening of the games at the inauguration of the

One of the most persistent pressures came from the Catalan Olympic committee; headed
by a former minister of the Catalan government and formed to oppose the Spanish
Olympic Committee, it sought to gain recognition from the International Olympic
Committee to have a separate team representing Catalonia participate in the games.

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

refurbished Olympic stadium, the king and the Spanish Olympic team
were whistled at and jeered.24
Nationalist groups made a steady stream of escalating symbolic demands
in the months prior to the games, sometimes fed by electoral and political
pressures. Some nationalists drew a parallel between Catalonia and the
newly independent states of the former Soviet Union and demanded that
Catalan athletes march under the Olympic ¬‚ag and display armbands with
the ¬‚ags of their nation. There were voices that called for the Catalan ¬‚ag
to be raised and their anthem to be played when Catalan athletes won a
medal and those who suggested Catalan athletes march into the stadium
together at the end of the opening ceremonies in recognition of Catalonia
as the host nation. The Olympic Committee stuck with its earlier agree-
ment to recognize Catalan as one of the four of¬cial languages of the
Games, along with French, English, and Spanish, the use of Catalan ¬‚ags
(along with those of Spain, Barcelona, and the IOC) in all settings where
the Games were held, and the inclusion of the Catalan patriotic song
˜˜El Cant de la Senyera™™ in the opening ceremonies. All of these were
carried out, but not before there was additional acrimony and detailed
negotiation to avoid overt con¬‚ict or aggressive displays during the Games
that would have embarrassed the parties before a world audience.
The ¬‚ag was the major focus of a number of incidents but virtually any
symbolic expression was easily politicized. One group launched a
˜˜Freedom for Catalonia™™ campaign and widely distributed banners and
T-shirts to be displayed in and around Olympic venues. Continual
negotiation up until the last minute produced on-going adjustments in
the plans, such as the addition of the Catalan national anthem, ˜˜El
Segadors,™™ with its anti-Spanish lyrics, and the decision to have a Catalan
girl dressed in traditional costume present the medals to the winners. In
mid June it was announced that both the Spanish and Catalan anthems
would be played when the king entered the stadium and that both ¬‚ags
would be represented along with the Barcelona city ¬‚ag. In addition, an
agreement was reached between Spanish and Catalan TV to share cov-
erage of the games. During the nine days prior to the Games when the
Olympic torch passed through Catalonia the situation was especially tense
as nationalists used the occasion to exclude and ridicule all that was

The stadium was loaded with political signi¬cance. It was built originally in 1936 to host
an alternative Olympic Games to those that Hitler and Nazi Germany held in Berlin.
However, the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War made this impossible.

Where is Barcelona?

Spanish.25 At one point, the central government and the governing
Socialists were increasingly upset at the nationalist control of the agenda
and emphasized that Catalan symbols represented Spain. Of course, it is
probable that some nationalists were not happy until they provoked a
reaction from the government which validated their efforts.
In early July, the Catalan government took out two-page advertisements
in major newspapers around the world. On the ¬rst page was a blank map
of Europe with only Barcelona marked on it with the question, ˜˜Where is
Barcelona?™™ The second page provided the answer: ˜˜In Catalonia, of
course.™™ Needless to say, this created a furor in the rest of the country.
Again the Socialists responded, stressing ˜˜the games belong to everyone™™
and they attacked the close ties between Pujol and some Catalan
nationalists. At two dress rehearsals in the ¬nal week there was loud
whistling when the Spanish ¬‚ag appeared in the stadium and when the
Spanish anthem was played.
Despite the apparent acrimony, none of the groups wanted to be
responsible for the failure of the Olympics, and in the ¬nal days those
threatening to disrupt the games declared they were satis¬ed with the
arrangements and the Olympics took place without incident. The ¬‚ags
were potent expressions in a symbolic con¬‚ict that both asserted mutually
exclusive political identities and promoted a rede¬nition of the Catalan“
Madrid relationship. Hargreaves observes that ˜˜The conduct of the
Games constituted the arena in which the compromise arrived at by the
contending parties was put into practice, tested out, worked on and
perfected™™ (Hargreaves 2000: 96). In the end, he says, the inclusive
symbolic and multi-national presentations including both Catalanized
and Espanolized elements met the basic needs of all sides.
The king, who was a potentially divisive symbol, turned out to be
crucial in bridging the two identities much as he has done since 1975 in
creating the political space and support for the democratic transition and
alternation of power between left and right in the country. At the
beginning of the opening ceremonies, the king and the royal family

Hargreaves reports that the reception ceremony for the torch ˜˜was to be an almost
completely Catalan cultural feast . . . [and] in marked contrast to the programmes for the
opening and closing ceremonies . . . this was a relatively exclusive affair with the accent on
high, rather than popular or mass culture™™ (Hargreaves 2000:79). There was little that was
Spanish, as opposed to Catalan at the event, and when Spanish Minister of Education
Javier Solana addressed the crowd he was drowned out in a chorus of whistling and
shouting as soon as he opened his mouth.

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

entered the stadium to the music of the Catalan national anthem, ˜˜Els
Segadors,™™ making it impossible for the crowd to jeer and whistle, at the
same time as the Spanish, Catalan, and Barcelona ¬‚ags were paraded,
according the Catalan and Spanish national symbols equal status. Later
the king of¬cially declared the Games open in Catalan, ˜˜Benvinguts tots a
Barcelona™™ (Welcome Everyone to Barcelona), producing a reaction that
Hargreaves characterizes as electric. ˜˜This single brief act seems to have
won over the Catalan audience at the outset™™ (Hargreaves 2000: 101). His
active involvement throughout the games, a highly Catalanized event,
emphasized the connections, rather than the differences, between the two
nations (Hargreaves 2000: 107).
During the Games the Catalan spectators were especially vocal in
greeting, and celebrating, the victories of Catalan athletes, but Hargreaves
reports that there was no animosity toward Spanish athletes.26 Spanish
medal winners circled the stadium with the Spanish ¬‚ag but also with that of
their autonomous community (region) after a Catalan had done this early in
the games. The gesture put Catalan autonomy in a larger Spanish context,
marking its distinctiveness but also recognizing Catalonia as one of
a number of Spain™s autonomous communities. Furthermore, the team
uniforms “ using the colors Spain and Catalonia share (red and yellow), the
victory ceremonies, and the behavior of Spanish of¬cials all were inclusive
and recognized a clear Catalan role within Spain, not opposition to it.
Hargreaves concludes that the outcome was successful. Pactism worked
and he attributes this in great part to an inclusive nationalism that gave a
role to dual identity and ¬‚exibility (2000: 141“42). The public opinion data
he presents on identity and perceptions of the Olympics show high
agreement within Catalonia and Spain on the king™s, and the royal family™s
positive role, the organizational success of the games (beating prior
expectations), and the positive image of Spain, Catalonia, and Barcelona
that was projected abroad. The data also show differences, however,
between Catalonia and the rest of the country with respect to the issue of
language and cultural symbols that are clearly sore points for many in the
rest of Spain. When asked to evaluate the use of Catalan as one of the
of¬cial languages of the games, there was a clear divergence. In Catalonia

Interestingly, Hargreaves notes that there was an especially warm relationship toward the
teams from small nations who had recently gained independence such as the Baltic states,
Croatia and Bosnia (Hargreaves 2000:105). Perhaps Catalans readily identi¬ed with other
small nations which they perceived to have experienced the same sorts of trials and
tribulations that the Catalans have known.

Where is Barcelona?

84% said it was very good or good and only 4% said it was bad, while in the
rest of Spain, the numbers were 29% and 40%. There were similar ¬gures
for the question about the use of the Catalan ¬‚ag and national anthem
together with those of Spain during the games; 82% of the people in
Catalonia said it was very good or good and 4% bad or very bad, while for
the rest of Spain the ¬gures were 28% and 38% (Hargreaves 2000: 158).
In reading Hargreaves™ account and the last minute accommodation
that was achieved, a crucial question to ask is how disruption and even
violence were avoided given the intensity of some nationalist sentiment.
His analysis suggests four factors to explain the successful outcome: each
major actor had an interest in avoiding disruption and each got enough of
what it needed to accept a peaceful outcome; an inclusive nationalism did
not force Catalans or Spaniards to view their identity narrowly and choose
between them; there was no escalation of the con¬‚ict on the part of the
Spanish government despite many small provocations; and the long
Catalan tradition of hard bargaining and compromise (pactism) made it
possible to accept an inclusive ritual resolution.

Catalonia™s relationship with Spain has taken many forms over the cen-
turies. However, one constant is that over time a signi¬cant number of
Catalans have refused to abandon their language and national identity.
At times this has provoked a strong response from Madrid and efforts
to suppress expressions of Catalan identity; at other times, such as the
period since 1975, there has been a good deal of accommodation and
space within Spain for multiple identities and regional autonomy. In the
post-Franco period, intense con¬‚icts have occurred around identity
issues, including prolonged violence involving the Basques, but the ten-
sions related to Catalonia have not produced violence or strong support
for independence. Most Catalans accept their status as a nation without a
state and many point to the special role that Catalonia plays within Spain
and Europe with pride and satisfaction.
Spain™s successful democratic transition makes it clear that formal
governmental arrangements and leadership matter (Linz, Stephan, and
Gunther 1995). However, they are not all that matter, and as this chapter
argues an additional dimension also played an important role in the
process: the development of an inclusive narrative about Catalonia and its
relationship to Spain that provided each side with basic reassurance so
Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

that when tensions rose, they did not turn into destructive con¬‚ict.27 In
addition, ritual expression of dual identity became acceptable in post-
Franco Spain, as was demonstrated in the dispute over the symbolic
landscape associated with the 1992 Olympics.28
In both Spain and Canada, restraint on the part of the state paid off in
that neither of these con¬‚icts turned violent despite moments when that
certainly seemed possible. One important lesson is that tensions and
differences aren™t necessarily the problem “ they exist in all relationships.
The question is how parties manage them. In these cases, while the
demands of the national minorities were often more than the state wanted
to hear, they were not posed in terms of ultimatums or hard-line positions
from which neither side could back down. In Spain, King Juan Carlos™s
inclusive actions, the acceptance of regional languages, and the existence
of seventeen autonomous communities in the country have provided a
framework in which Catalans feel that their core cultural concerns are
more or less acknowledged and that they possess suf¬cient power and
control in their region to protect their identity.
Part of the emerging national narrative in Catalonia and in Quebec is that
each sees itself as a small nation without a state and recognizes that there are
other nations in the same situation. Small nations can be both regional and
international actors, and while both Spain and Canada regularly express
unease when Catalonia and Quebec try to exercise an independent foreign
policy, the external connections among small nations, and their connection
to regional and international organizations clearly provide some signi¬cant
emotional, economic and political support that eases tension between the
region and the state. Finally, the existence of strong European institutions,
Catalonia™s ties to other regions within Europe, and widespread interna-
tional and regional recognition of Catalonia as a small nation facilitates the
Catalan“Madrid relationship and acts as a balancing mechanism that is
crucial in accounting for the success of the current arrangements, increasing
Catalan con¬dence that their autonomy is not at risk.

If only the formal, constitutional arrangements mattered then one would predict that the
relationship between Basque nationalism and Spain should have had a similar outcome to
the Catalan one. This is clearly not the case, however, which means that the differences
between Catalan and Basque identity in terms of inclusiveness and symbolic expressions
are well worth considering (c.f. Conversi 1997, Laitin 1995).
´ ´
In the case of Quebec too there have been many similar dynamics as Canada and Quebec
have worked to rede¬ne their relationship in mutually satisfactory ways. Most observers
would agree, however, that the situation in Quebec is more uncertain and the mutual
con¬dence the parties express weaker than in Catalonia and Spain.

Where is Barcelona?

Finally, while Catalan identity has existed for centuries, its content and
emotional signi¬cance have ebbed and ¬‚owed over time. Whereas many
in the Spanish Civil War generation and their children put a great deal of
energy into maintaining Catalan language and culture, McRoberts™ (2001)
data suggest that their emotional salience may be diminishing among
succeeding generations, which should not be surprising given the dimin-
ished threat to them in the contemporary political context. The point is
that the core components of identity and their salience change over time
and are tied to speci¬c social and political contexts. On the other hand,
following the years when Jose Maria Aznar™s Popular Party ruled Spain,
there was talk of clipping the wings of the country™s regions and Catalans
variously chafed and worried about their status. Following the 2004
elections when the a three-party coalition including Catalan separatists
took power in the region and the Socialists defeated Aznar nationally, the
Catalan legislature passed a revised autonomy statute that refers to Cat-
alonia as a nation but there remains pressure to reframe their status as a
nationality (Anderson 2006). The government in Madrid was once again
careful not to escalate the tensions and it appeared that the parties would
¬nd a way to make the new arrangements work.
´bec, there is always
For small nations, such as Catalonia and Que
tension between the folkloric and the pragmatic-modernist sides of
identity (Noyes 2003). Whereas the ¬rst emphasizes traditions and ritual
expressions of culture, the latter links expressions of identity to the
context of a globalized world. Of course the two are not always in
opposition. Given the widespread interest in folk festivals, traditional
music, regional cuisine, and local clothing crafts among tourists and
others, there are many people who have very pragmatic, modern reasons
to emphasize their heritage. For some people, this means moving between
different, but partially overlapping, worlds daily, weekly, or seasonally,
and these movements are not necessarily problematic or stressful. Fur-
thermore, expression of regional cultures in many contexts is not neces-
sarily threatening to modern states whose sovereignty is diffused upwards
into cross-national and international organizations and downward to local
governments and civil society. In places when identities are de¬ned in
cultural more than ethnic terms, inclusive political space can develop that
allows for the expression of multiple identities and loyalties “ in this case
to the nation (Catalonia) and state (Spain) “ in ways that do not produce
tension and con¬‚ict that can be managed only through violence.


Digging up the past to contest the present: politics
and archeology in Jerusalem™s Old City

Metaphorically the holy sites in Jerusalem™s old city are ground zero of
the Israeli“Palestinian con¬‚ict. The mutually exclusive claims Jews and
Muslims make concerning sovereignty, rights, and identity played out in
excruciating detail around contested above and below ground sacred
space parallel the emotionally intense differences about political exis-
tence found in the larger con¬‚ict of which Jerusalem is just one part.
While contestation in Jerusalem takes many forms and has many dif-
ferent foci, these always come back to questions of power, control,
vulnerability, and purity. The mutually exclusive claims each side reg-
ularly makes set off a spiral reaction from the other that leave little room
for the development of inclusive symbols and rituals that could de¬ne a
community that offers mutual recognition and shared spaces, and
where one group™s existence is not necessarily a threat to another. The
competing narratives and psychocultural dramas over the Old City of
Jerusalem™s holy sites occur because, ˜˜Sacred centers are not just
re¬‚ections or traces of political power: they are often instruments and
sources of political power™™ and intimately tied to the larger con¬‚ict
(Friedland and Hecht 1998: 147).
For the past 100 years or so, the most intense Muslim“Jewish con¬‚ict
in Jerusalem has been over the area on, under, and next to what Jews call
the Temple Mount (Har Habayit) and Muslims the Noble Sanctuary
(Haram al-Sharif) (Figure 6.1).1 Jews believe that the ruins of their First
and Second Temples, including the Holiest of Holies, are beneath the

Muslim“Jewish con¬‚ict in Jerusalem™s Old City is often seen as coterminous with the
Israeli“Palestinian con¬‚ict in important ways although it is must be noted that 20% of

Digging up the past to contest the present

Figure 6.1 The Haram al Sharif with the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the
Rock and the Western Wall. The opening to the immediate left of the wall is the
entrance to the controversial archeological tunnel that runs the length of the wall
and exits on the Via Dolorosa.

present platform where the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque
are located. The Haram is Islam™s third holiest place, after Mecca and
Medina, and its Western Wall (Al Buraq in Arabic and Kotel Hamaaravi
in Hebrew) is where Muslims believe Muhammad began his Night
Journey to heaven. Jews consider the same Western Wall to be the only
remaining visible section of their Second Temple which the Romans
destroyed in 70 CE, although there are Muslims who say it is only a
retaining wall from a Roman forti¬cation. The wall is Judaism™s holiest
site and Jews believe that when the Messiah arrives, a third and ¬nal
temple will be built on the Temple Mount that it supports. Thus, the
Haram and the Kotel have come to represent the core of each group™s
religious and political identity. As Benvenisti writes, ˜˜Just as the Muslims
had turned the Temple Mount into a focal point for nationalist activities,
the Jews have transformed the Wall into a national site . . . the coexistence

Israeli citizens are Palestinians and that a minority of Palestinians are Christian, not

Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

of these two neighboring places of worship is not peaceful nor is the
con¬‚ict over them merely religious™™ (Benvenisti 1996: 83).2 Finally, many
of each group™s rules concerning access to, and behavior on, the site are
mutually exclusive (Hassner 2005).
Consider just two con¬‚icts that have developed into intense psy-
chocultural dramas in the past decade. In 1996, soon after right-wing
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took of¬ce, the Israeli government
authorized the opening of an exit on the Via Dolorosa, in the
city™s Muslim quarter, to an archeological tunnel running the length of
the long western side of the Haram (Figure 6.2). The tunnel had existed
for a dozen years and visitors both entered and left through a small area
at the northern end of the plaza next to the wall™s prayer area. Palesti-
nians and the Muslim religious authorities expressed outrage that the
decision had been taken without consultation and claimed that Jews
were attempting to tunnel under the Haram as they had done in the
1980s in search of the temple™s remains, and that this threatened the
foundations of the Haram itself and houses in the Muslim quarter.
Rioting and ¬ghting, some of which was clearly orchestrated, spread to
the West Bank leaving eighty-six Palestinians and ¬fteen Israeli soldiers
dead and many hundreds wounded the next week (Dumper 2002: 85). As
Dumper notes:
For Palestinians, these confrontations with Israel were simply the latest mani-
festations of the struggle with Jews and the Israeli state over the control of the
Haram compound in the Old City. Following the precedent set by the Western
Wall incident in 1929, the demolition of the Magharib quarter, the expansion of
the Jewish quarter, the penetration of settlers into the Muslim and Christian
quarters of the Old City, the activities of the Temple Mount Faithful groups, and
the Jewish underground to take over the Haram all were part of a broad strategy
for their ultimate dispossession in the heart of Jerusalem.
(Dumper 2002: 85)

The archeological tunnel in question passes under the Muslim quarter
and reveals the bedrock and portions of the underground walls of the
Haram/ Temple Mount. While it was obvious for some time that an exit
at the northern end of the tunnel would provide for a more ef¬cient ¬‚ow
of visitors to the tunnel, it was also clear that this would fan Muslim fears

Just to make the situation more complicated there is the fundamentalist Christian belief
that the Temple must be rebuilt to set off the battle for Armageddon that will presage ˜˜the
end of days™™ (Gorenberg 2000).

Digging up the past to contest the present

Str al-

Di t

Bab al-Zahra


(Herod™s Gate)

s Ro



Al Q a d
Al Mawlawiyya
Bab al-Amud St. Anne™s
(Damascus Gate) Church


Ecce Homo

Suq Khan al-Zeit

Bab Al-Asbat

(Lion™s Gate)

Via sa Hutta

Christian Muslim Al Omariya
Quarters School
Quarter Haram
Aqabat Tekiyeh
ncis Str. Aqabat
St. Fra Sepulchre Dome of
the Rock
Chr.Qr t.Rd.

Mosque Bab

of Omar Silsileh

Al Buraq
Al Silsileh (Western Wall)

Al Aqsa
Suq al Husur

Bab al-Khalil Mosque
(Habad Str.)

Site of Demolished
(Jaffa Gate) Magharib Quarter
Jewish Quarter
Armenian Street

O fe
St. James
Bab al Magharbeh
(Dung Gate)

Bab Nabi Da™ud 0 200 metres

(Zion Gate)
S il

Area Expropriated for the Reconstitution
of an extended Jewish Quarter 1968
Major Religious and Public Buildings

Figure 6.2 Map of Jerusalem™s Old City showing key Christian, Jewish and
Islamic holy sites

of Jewish encroachment. During the ¬rst years after the Oslo Agreement,
therefore, nothing was done. Only when Benjamin Netanyahu, an oppo-
nent of the Oslo Agreement, was elected prime minister in 1996 after
Yitzak Rabin™s assassination, was opening the tunnel™s new exit authorized.
The second psychocultural drama began several years later when some
Israelis became infuriated by Palestinian building activity on top of, and
beneath, the Haram. The con¬‚ict surfaced in 1999 and observers link it to
Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

Palestinian anger over the 1996 tunnel opening after which the Waqf, the
Islamic Religious Trust, stopped its informal pattern of cooperation with
the Israeli government and the Israeli Antiquities Authority (Shragai
2000). But we should also connect Muslim actions in the recent con¬‚ict to
Muslim vulnerability expressed in 1929 when they reacted to Jewish
moves to alter the Ottoman status quo arrangements regarding Jewish
access to, and prayer at, the wall, as described in Chapter 2. The project
that provoked the strongest Israeli reaction was construction of a large
new exit to the Marwani Mosque, an underground prayer hall on the
Haram, in an area often called Solomon™s Stables, that was built in the
early Islamic period when Crusaders (not King Solomon) used it as a
stable. While the Israeli authorities had authorized the exit, there was
great surprise and anger at its size, the amount of earth “ at least 6,000
tons “ that was removed and scattered at various dumpsites, and the use of
heavy machinery, including bulldozers.
Israeli opponents expressed outrage that the work was not carried out
under archeological supervision and a group of archeologists and others
from both the left and right formed The Committee for the Prevention of
Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount. They published photos
of the excavation and building, conducted a survey of the tons of dirt ¬lled
with objects in the Kidron Valley next to a garbage dump, and lobbied the
government to halt the project.3 They charged that ˜˜this type of sys-
tematic destruction would be unthinkable at any similarly important site
in the world, such as the Acropolis in Athens or the Forum in Rome™™
(Shragai 2000). Waqf authorities asserted that they needed no Israeli
permission to undertake the work and that the Israeli presence is one of
occupation. Most controversial is their argument that there was no evi-
dence that the Jewish temples were actually on the site “ a claim Yasser
Arafat repeated at Camp David in 2000 “ and the contention that the
rubble was from the Islamic period (Arnold 1999). Others said that even if
the material did contain objects from earlier periods, it was only located
above Solomon™s Stables because it had served as land¬ll there hundreds
of years earlier and therefore was of no archeological signi¬cance.
Israeli politicians and archeologists asserted that ˜˜the remnants of
Jewish history were being trampled on™™ (Arnold 1999), and the Jerusalem
municipality released a statement saying that while the exit was needed,

The detailed data and photos concerning the construction activity on the Temple Mount
are presented in the group™s website: www.har-habayt.org/

Digging up the past to contest the present

the action was ˜˜part of a political move intended to create a fait accompli
toward the future management and control of the Temple Mount™™
(Sappir 1999). Gabriel Bar-Kay, an archeologist and member of the
Committee for the Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities on the
Temple Mount, describes the area as ˜˜the Acropolis of ancient Judaism™™
that needed to be protected from politicians and activists. He described
going to the dumpsites and ¬nding objects he asserted were as old as the
First Temple period, and charged the Muslim authorities with system-
atically ˜˜erasing evidence of Jewish presence™™ on the Temple Mount
(personal interview). In many ways this is precisely the goal, driven by
Muslim insecurity and fear that recognition of a historical Jewish presence
will lead to Jewish appropriation of the Haram in much the same way as
Arabs feel Jews have appropriated much of Palestine.
At the core of both these con¬‚icts are the intense emotions the parties
feel and express that parallel deep fears and suspicions embedded in the
larger Israeli“Palestinian con¬‚ict. What is found in both the Jerusalem
con¬‚ict and the larger con¬‚ict is that opponents view each other™s actions
as aggressive and make exclusive claims that negate the other™s existence
and identity (Sappir 1999). It is not hard to see that when Jews or Muslims
assert exclusive rights to the holy sites while denying those of the other
side, they are also making a claim concerning their larger political rights
in the region. For example, for many years Israeli leaders, most famously
former Prime Minister Golda Meir, denied that there was a distinct
Palestinian identity, saying, ˜˜There is no such thing as a Palestinian
people.™™ If this was the case, then, Palestinians were hardly entitled to
their own state and Jews were simply returning to their (empty) homeland
after almost 2000 years of exile. In response, many Palestinians have
articulated an alternative narrative, one that emphasizes the long-term
existence of a Palestinian people within the Arab world and their con-
tinued presence in Palestine for millennia going back to the early
Canaanites (Litvak 1994).
In each of these narratives religious and national claims are fused as
Palestinians and Israelis see their own nation as the rightful heir to the
land, and offer little acknowledgment of the possibility that both nations
have legitimate rights. To bolster their own claims, each side appeals for
support from its own citizens and outsiders. In this chapter, I focus on one
that has a particularly strong appeal to multiple audiences “ the use of
historical and, especially archeological, evidence to put forth identity and
sovereignty claims in ways that each side perceives as highly threatening
Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict

to its own position. Archeological evidence is material and physical and, at
the same time, problematic in many ways, most obviously because it is
fragmentary and individual objects often reveal little or nothing about
how people in the ancient past thought about their social and political
identity. Nonetheless, both archeologists and popularizers often have
little hesitation in drawing inferences from objects to identities. Especially
relevant is that mass publics readily ¬nd these narratives emotionally and
politically plausible and powerful.
Two dynamics come together here. The ¬rst is a tendency to essen-
tialize groups and their identities and to minimize an opponent™s within-
group diversity. In this process, there is little acknowledgment of the
social and political forces at play that create, manipulate, and alter
identities over time. The second dynamic involves the ideological
manipulation of time to meet political needs. Present identities are read
backwards as in ˜˜Nos ancetres les Gauls,™™ and genealogical linkages are
stressed in terms of contemporary political identities and group con-
tinuity (Horowitz 1985: ch. 2) while present-day beliefs and social prac-
tices are attributed to ancestors, providing emotional linkage across time.
Essentializing and time manipulation serve political claim-making by
connecting a selectively remembered past to the contested present to
mobilize the defense of the in-group. Political use of archeological ¬nd-
ings calls on both of these strategies to produce a seamless linkage
between present peoples and ancient ones. Yet, archeological evidence,
while having ˜˜scienti¬c™™ and material credibility, is suf¬ciently incom-
plete and ambiguous to nurture mutually exclusive narratives that serve
the interests of opposing political leaders and groups in con¬‚ict (Bernbeck
and Pollack 1998: S140).
Psychocultural narratives and dramas around Jerusalem™s holy sites are
not new. Nor do they involve only Muslims and Jews. Because people
believe that real nations have real histories, it is not surprising that groups
put a good deal of energy into uncovering new, or reinterpreting existing,
evidence to develop and support their claims. The narratives various
actors then develop provide a rich testimony to the polarization resulting
from exclusive claims, mutual denial, and deep existential fears. In Jer-
usalem, these fears are always close to the surface. Through symbolic and
ritual actions and the use of real power the con¬‚icting parties raise each
other™s anxiety levels in ways that reinforce the worldview that the only
possible peace in the region will be one that is achieved by force. In this
dynamic, symbolic and substantive actions are intertwined and take many
Digging up the past to contest the present

forms, some as simple as throwing rocks from the Haram onto Jewish
worshipers at the Western Wall below or Ariel Sharon proclaiming his
right to walk on the Temple Mount and going there accompanied by
hundreds of Israeli security forces as he did in September 2000. In each
case, the actors are asserting their own group™s sovereignty over the area
and delivering the message in an aggressive, public manner whose
meaning is hard to misunderstand.
This chapter uses the case of Jerusalem™s holy sites to examine the role
of archeology in the development of history and memory in the Israeli“
Palestinian con¬‚ict. The next section explores the concept of sacred space
and its political signi¬cance, emphasizing that sacred spaces are both
powerful and vulnerable at the same time. The following one connects
this to the use of archeological ¬ndings and the politics of mutual denial.
Then I discuss psychocultural dramas and the Muslim“Jewish con¬‚ict
over Jerusalem™s holy sites, and the ¬nal section raises questions about
reframing existing narratives and symbolic space, asking about the extent
to which sacred sites can be rede¬ned more inclusively, and even shared,
to allow Muslims and Jews to live side by side more peacefully than
they have in the past century, as part of managing the Palestinian“Israeli

Identity and sacred sites
One way to think about identity is to consider what it is that people with
the same identity believe they share. Invariably, part of the answer is a
shared past recounted in group narratives even though the content of that
past is often partial and vague (Roy 1994).4 From a psychocultural per-
spective and more important than the details about the past are emo-
tionally salient reference points that elicit strong reactions and symbolize
identity. These take a wide variety of forms, many of which are examined


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