Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Immediate Struggles

Immediate Struggles: People, Power, and Place in Rural Spain

Susana Narotzky
Gavin Smith
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 275
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Immediate Struggles
    Book Description:

    This superb historical and ethnographic study of the political economy of the Vega Baja region of Spain, one of the European Union's "Regional Economies," takes up the difficult question of how to understand the growing alienation ordinary working people feel in the face of globalization. Combining rich oral histories with a sophisticated and nuanced structural understanding of changing political economies, the authors examine the growing divide between government and its citizens in a region that has in the last four decades been transformed from a primarily agricultural economy to a primarily industrial one. Offering a new form of ethnography appropriate for the study of suprastate polities and a globalized economy,Immediate Strugglescontributes to our understanding of one region as well as the way we think about changing class relations, modes of production, and cultural practices in a newly emerging Europe. The authors also consider how phenomena such as the "informal economy" and "black market" are not marginal to the normal operation of state and economic institutions but are intertwined with both.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93901-1
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Glossary
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Dramatis Personae
    (pp. xxi-xxiii)
  7. [Map]
    (pp. xxiv-xxiv)
  8. CHAPTER 1 Toward an Anthropological Framework for Studying Contemporary Europe
    (pp. 1-30)

    First and foremost this book is a historical account of people who seek a livelihood by threading their way through agricultural, manufacturing, and service pursuits in a rural area of southeastern Spain. But it is also an exploration of the possibilities of ethnography as a means of understanding the history of the highly complex, fractured, crisis-ridden world of today. As such, this book is directed to readers concerned about finding a comprehensible perspective on that world while simultaneously being deeply engaged within that world—an audience interested in people and places, an audience far wider than our colleagues in anthropology....

  9. PART ONE Conflicting Histories

    • CHAPTER 2 The Histories of the Regional Political Economy
      (pp. 33-55)

      There is much to suggest that our study area had many of the features ascribed to successful regional economies like the “Third Italy” and Baden-Württemberg. Combining an arid area of farming and a coastal littoral of (albeit poorly supplied) irrigation, and combining agriculture and rural industry as well, the province of Alicante has long been a place of rural pluriactivity. For years agricultural activities have been complemented by an almost infinite number of nonagricultural jobs, from trading to transport and manufacturing. There was pluriactivity both at the family level, with each member engaging in quite different occupations, and at an...

    • CHAPTER 3 Regulating Social Life through Uncertainty and Fear
      (pp. 56-74)

      It is now time to get a sense of the social world that prevailed in the Vega Baja through the 1940s and 1950s. By exploring people’s remembered experiences of the broader regional history, we can see how the common frame of political repression and the postwar black market actually created divisions among ordinary people, privatizing their experiences and thus limiting the possibility of their being voiced. “The terror,” notes Julián Casanova, “succeeded in breaking the ties of friendship and social solidarity, preventing any germ of resistance” (Casanova et al., 2002: 29).

      Before the war one could do well withcáñamo...

    • CHAPTER 4 From Insecurity to Dependency
      (pp. 75-96)

      Here is the setting of the 1940s and ’50s: The terrors (for some) and opportunities (for others) of the immediate postwar period gave way to the habitualization of personalized repression mediated through the semilegal workings of theestraperloand the increasing predominance of the social relations of hemp production. Yet such a simply characterized setting runs the risk of obscuring a wide variety of experienced histories. By collecting together the disparate strands, by the act of packaging for the purposes of coherence, we run the risk of rounding out some kind of regional “culture.” Yet the substance of what we...

    • CHAPTER 5 From Insecurity to Movement
      (pp. 97-118)

      For those, like Alicia Fuentes’s family, whose background lies in the corporatist dependencies symbolized by theaniagocontract, the 1940s and ’50s are constructed less as a period of harsh repression than as a time of organic integrity and geographic fixity, withtodo en su sitio(everything in its place), an expression often uttered with an air of satisfaction among such families. For others whose family histories are more closely embedded in the daily uncertainties of thejornalcontract, the repression of this period is rarely discussed openly. The world ofestraperlothough, often is. Since this too was a...

  10. PART TWO Regional Capitalism

    • CHAPTER 6 Families and Entrepreneurs
      (pp. 121-144)

      In 1969 , S. H. Franklin wrote an influential book on the European countryside titledThe European Peasantry.Its subtitle captured the sense of the times—The Final Phase.Indeed, in his final chapter Franklin evokes the idea of the few rural smallholders left in the countryside becoming little more than park keepers, preserving the landscape for the urban folk who rush by on weekends and holidays. Yet, as we said at the opening of this book, for some areas of Europe the shift has been less a near-total exodus from the countryside than a shift from industry as an...

    • CHAPTER 7 Flexible Structures and Torn Lives
      (pp. 145-168)

      Thus far we have seen the effects of the shift from agricultural to industrial predominance on various kinds of small entrepreneurs. In this chapter we take up the story as industry has truly achieved dominance, and we focus on cases that exemplify the different kinds of people affected by these changes. Most of these people are involved in shoe production centered on Elche to the east of Catral and, to a lesser extent, carpet production in Crevillente to the north.

      After Franco’s death, union activity became bolder in Elche, and then through the 1980s smaller, nearby municipalities found that they...

    • CHAPTER 8 The Culture of Politics, the Politics of Culture
      (pp. 169-202)

      One day in the mid-1980s Gavin was sitting in a bar with his friend Pablo. The conversation had come round to the civil war. Pablo was laughing and teasing his English friend: “Why is it the English love to write and talk about the civil war so much? All the fat books on the war are by English people.¹ I’ve never met an English person who doesn’t eventually start talking about the civil war.” Pablo, a teacher in a design school in nearby Orihuela, was then a thirty-year-old married man with two young children who had spent his student years...

  11. CHAPTER 9 The Power of Ethnography
    (pp. 203-220)

    We have written this book to explore how ethnography might be used as an important tool in understanding society at the current conjuncture. Contemporary society seems to dart from one crisis to the next and seems to have done so for so long that “crisis” and “the present” are beginning to seem almost synonymous. And the same goes for anthropology. Throughout our careers we have been told that anthropology was in crisis. More recently this sense that the discipline is unable to meet today’s challenges has focused on despair about the practices of ethnography—both in its fieldwork form and...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 221-234)
  13. References Cited
    (pp. 235-246)
  14. Index
    (pp. 247-250)