Student working on a research project.

"Hardened By The Rain": The Symbolic Significance Of Water In Contemporary Catalonia

While a variety of discourses of nation in Catalonia, from literature and politics to tourism and television, continue to locate the enduring essence of Catalan-ness in the rural landscape and its postcard perfection, those who live there will be the first to point out that its characteristics are anything but permanent. In response largely to tourism, but also to shifting demographics and pressures from the global marketplace, the Catalan rural landscape is being swiftly and aggressively redesigned. This rewriting of the rural plays out in myriad ways, among the most notable of which is the manipulation of water both as a natural resource and cultural marker. In Catalonia, waterways are features of the landscape that have, in the past, engaged the local population with traditional ways of life, through agriculture and fishing, as well as through cyclical droughts and flooding, but with increasing frequency these waterways are placed at the service of urban populations. In poetry and in practice, Catalan waterways represent an intimate connectedness with the local,while simultaneously crossing borders, attracting outsiders, and, as is the case of the Mediterranean Sea, signifying Catalonia's historical connection to the rest of the world. The waterscape in Catalonia is a visible, physical trait that marks a contrast between Catalonia and the rest of Spain: while Spanish cities and towns tend to be organized around a central square, or plaza, Catalan cities and towns are oriented around the "riera," a stream bed that marks where annual runoff flows out of the mountains toward the Mediterranean Sea and that forms the main street of the town. This characteristic of the local landscape is a prominent feature in Catalan literature, which, in turn, is a significant medium for the articulation and exploration of what it means to be Catalan. In my research I am examining the intersections between literary, political, and environmental discourses about water in Catalonia, exploring how Catalonia articulates a collective identity as attached to the natural environment and also speculating about how Catalonia might use the persistent water shortage as a way to enter global politics independently of the Spanish government, since the management of natural resources is a global concern, and in simple geographic terms, water connects us all. I'm seeking students to help me build an interdisciplinary bibliography by reading and providing written summaries of texts from a variety of fields (depending on the student's area of interest). Students may also be asked to participate in working group style discussions with me and other research assistants to talk about what we're learning and to generate ideas. Sample Readings DiGiacomo, Susan. "'La caseta i l'hortet': Rural Imagery in Catalan Urban Politics." _Anthropological Quarterly_. 60.4 (Oct. 1987), 160-66. Swyngedouw, Erik. "Modernity and Hybridity: Nature, Regeneracionismo, and the Production of the Spanish Waterscape, 1890-1930." _The Annals of the Association of American Geographers_. 89.3 (Sept. 1999), 443-65.

Research Project Information

Disciplines: Spanish Language And Literature, Geography, Political Science, Anthropology, Cultural Geography, Environmental Science, European History
Student Skill-Set Needed: At least one course in a related discipline, high level reading and writing skills as demonstrated by academic success, able to work independently. The ability to read Spanish may be useful but is not required.
Compensation: Academic Credit, Volunteer
Available: Spring, Summer


For further information on this opportunity, or to apply, contact:

Faculty Member: Colleen Culleton
Department: Romance Languages And Literatures
Office: 905 Clemens Hall