Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Stanford University


Writing Migration in Contemporary Galicia  
FSI Stanford, The Europe Center Seminar

Date and Time
February 20, 2009
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

RSVP Required by 5PM February 19

Kirsty Hooper - Lecturer in Spanish and Galician at University of Liverpool

This seminar proposes readings of texts by migrants to and from Galicia as a means of mapping the cultural consequences, in Galicia, of the shifting relations between territory and citizenship, language and identity that have resulted from the massive population movements of the last century. While an important body of work already exists on migration between Galicia and the Americas, I argue here that the full implications of questions of migration and diaspora in Galicia can only be uncovered by relocating our discussion of diaspora and migration outside the colonial framework and the inevitably tangled linguistic, racial, cultural and historical ties within which Galician migration to Latin America has taken place. To this end, the paper focuses on writers connected with the Anglophone and Germanic diasporas for whom Galician is or has been a creative language.


Prof. Hooper begins by aiming to address the question of how to understand Galicia in a contemporary world where literature goes beyond state boundaries. She explains of Galicia’s complicated relationship with the world; while seen as a major literary force, it is still part of Spain and often disputes its nationhood. Prof. Hooper reveals, however, that Galicia’s self-image and image in the rest of the world has long been shaped by emigration. However, to Prof. Hooper, the traditional narrative of Galicia is no longer adequate. The overwhelming focus of this narrative on Galicia’s relationship with Spain and Latin America further perpetuates the notions of colonialism and Galicia as a minority. On the other hand, Prof. Hooper explains how decolonization and globalization have made artists and writers changed their approach to representing Galicia. Emigration is crucial to this reimagining because it is such a central part of Galician identity.

The 2005 Galician elections, decided by voters abroad, raised key questions about voting rights and Galician identity, according to Prof. Hooper. She discusses how conservatives and nationalists alike have promoted artificially stabling coordinates of identity in the region. Prof. Hooper illustrates such uncertainty about identity in Galicia through the example of the literary community. Those who are fervent supports of Galicia but write in Spanish are excluded, while foreigners writing in Galician are welcomed.

Another key aspect which Prof. Hooper raises is the emphasis on 'process over essences' in moving Galicia’s identity past state boundaries. However, Prof. Hooper reveals how this emigrant identity is characterized by various tensions. The intergenerational clash between what may be seen as the romantic notion of exile and economically driven emigration figures prominently in literature. Another significant tension is between nationalism and displacement, according to Prof. Hooper. She also argues that romanticizing emigration could lead dangerously to reinforcing conservative models. Finally, Prof. Hooper makes the point that immigration back into Galicia is changing identity in ways that the region does not yet know how to cope with.

Prof. Hooper finishes by taking questions on a range of topics from linguistic standardization to Galician literary work in Latin America. One of the issues particularly explored is the role of Galician electorate abroad, both in terms of voters and candidates. In addition, Prof. Hooper explores of notion of Galician identity abroad as a brand.

About the speaker

Kirsty Hooper teaches Spanish and Galician at the University of Liverpool, UK, where she is a founding editor of the journal Migrations & Identities and an assistant editor of the Bulletin of Hispanic Studies. She has published widely on modern and contemporary Spanish and Galician culture and literature, and is an active translator of Galician, Polish and Spanish literature.

This event is jointly sponsored by the Forum on Contemporary Europe and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Stanford University.

Daniel and Nancy Okimoto Conference Room
Encina Hall, 3rd floor, east wing
616 Serra St.
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305
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Laura Seaman