RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2015

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151 The Contemporary Growth of Regional Identity in Europe
Affiliation Postgraduate Forum
Convenor(s) Ben Gilby (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Robert Sheargold (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Chair(s) Ben Gilby (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Timetable Thursday 03 September 2015, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Room Peter Chalk - Room 1.4
Session abstract The latter half of 2014 saw a resurgence in demands for independence and devolution within Europe. Scotland has held an independence vote, with regions such as Catalonia and Veneto holding non-legally binding polls which have resulted in decisive outcomes for pro-independence supporters. Into this mix comes the likes of Brittany and Cornwall, with decade long demands for a Cornish Assembly, and a 50,000 signature petition handed into Downing Street. This session aims to examine the contemporary trends towards independence in Europe, through critically examining the local political situation in these regions and the consequences for wider national cohesion as a result of demands for independence or devolution, as these regions look to finally shake off what Hechter (1999) has termed ‘internal colonialism’. We have been awarded two sessions for this topic. The first of which will focus on papers discussing the present devolutionary trends, with the second session being an examination of the associated cultural identity of regions, as this plays such a major part in establishing their unique sense of place and ‘difference’ through the realms of literature, dance, music and sport
Linked Sessions The Contemporary Growth of Regional Identity in Europe (2): Regional Culture: Distinctiveness, Performance & Tradition
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2015@rgs.org
Aspiration for One and All?
Andrew Climo (University of Oxford, UK)
Up to the late 1990s, calls for Cornish devolution were inchoate, but in 2002, the Cornish Constitutional Convention published its prospectus called Devolution for One and All, which acted as a nexus for the various competing views on future governance. There is now some consensus as to what it means for Cornwall in terms of the mechanics of devolution, but there is cynicism with politicians in Cornwall being seen as distant and self-serving as those in Westminster. If there were to be a new blueprint for Cornwall to rebuild a devolution consensus, perhaps it should be entitled Aspiration for One and All. This paper discusses what such a document might look like and how public engagement might be developed.
A Feast of Cornish Culture
Julie Tamblin (Learn Cornish in Cornwall, UK)
In this celebratory and affirmative session, the voices of our writers, both female and male will be heard expressing Cornish distinctiveness across a range of literary forms, as a timeline of Cornish literature from the earliest texts to the present day. This historical overview includes work in the three linguistic forms which characterize Cornish culture – Kernowek, Cornu-English and English. Connections will also be made between voices from Cornwall and Cornish voices writing back from the diaspora, showing the global influence of Cornish culture.
Language and the Independentist Turn of Catalan Nationalism
Klaus Nagel (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain)
Since its engendering during the last years of the 19th Century, the defence of the Catalan language has always been at the core of Catalan nationalism. Until very recently, mainstream Catalanism struggled for more autonomy, but after the perceived failure of the new statute of autonomy in 2010, it is increasingly envisaging independence. This presentation analyses how the national movement adapts to this situation, and how the central state reacts, with the example of central government questioning the predominant use of Catalan in schools.
Northern Poetry with Verity Agababian
Verity Agababian (Campaign for the North, UK)
Verity Agababian, the daughter of an Iraqi-Armenian Doctor and a Burnley-born Nurse, will perform several poems about the North and her native Lancashire. In doing so, she will explore the complex topics of cultural identity, mixed heritage, language and community. Although growing up in Lancaster, Verity spent her summers in Jeddah, a country where three of her siblings were born, and where her father still lives. As a consequence, Verity offers a unique insight into what it means to be a young, mixed-heritage Northern woman in modern Britain.
Controversial Autonomist Dynamics in Northern Italy: Veneto Inside or Outside the so-called Padania?
Fabrizio Eva (University of Venice, Italy)
This presentation will examine the case study of the so-called Padania, 20 years after the electoral-political “explosion” of explicitly territory-linked parties in the Italian political arena, and highlight the fact that it is a good example of how the pretended existence of an “identity” can be used towards obtaining electoral success and of how unabashed propaganda can be brought to the top political level of institutions. The presentation will also try to identify the political separatist dynamics in the last 20 years both in Padania and Veneto in order to evaluate them and to affirm that the secessionist proposal has no possibility of success
Where there were two Cornishmen, there was a “rastle”: Cornish Wrestling & Identity
Mike Tripp (University of Exter, UK)
The origins of Cornish wrestling are unknown, but what is certain is that it has existed for centuries and is arguably Cornwall’s oldest and longest surviving sport. By the beginning of the eighteenth century it was a widespread ‘traditional’ activity, deeply rooted in the local culture and was Cornwall’s most popular sport. It reached the height of its popularity during the first few decades of the nineteenth century. During the second half of the nineteenth century the Cornish economy based on metal mining suffered a catastrophic collapse that precipitated large numbers of people to leave Cornwall to find work abroad. Wherever the Cornish went they stuck together in distinct ethnic communities sustaining a strong sense of identity, based on industrial pride and prowess. This manifested in features such as Methodist chapels and choirs, brass bands, self-help societies, the distinctive foods of pasties and saffron cake, and the Cornish dialect. To this list should be added Cornish wrestling, which played a part in sustaining and maintaining Cornish identity in places such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA.
Plen an Gwari: places of Play, Inclusivity and Resistance
Will Coleman (GoldenTree Productions, Bard of the Gorsedh Kernow, UK)
In many places and cultures throughout history, Performance has been used to articulate and strengthen the aspirations of minorities and to represent narratives resistant to dominant cultures.

Driven by the ‘powerhouse’ of Glasney College, the Gwari Meur culture of medieval Cornwall flourished for several hundred years and reached profound levels of artistry in its drama and literature. Related forms also developed elsewhere across Europe but ‘Cornwall was to do it better, and more intensively, than anywhere else’ (Kent, 2010)

Rather than sat passively around the sides, we now believe that the audience thronged through the whole plen an gwari space ‘on the hoof’. With artfully constructed scenery, costumes and props, massed chorus, live animals, guns etc, a Gwari Meur would have been an epic, immersive active experience. The argument is made that this plen an gwari form of staging lends itself to generating exactly the degree of intimacy, inclusivity and focus to allow the profoundly transformative process of theatre to happen.

The Gwari Meur culture was also deliberately Cornish; ‘The performance of the miracle plays was a vital part of that strategy of resistance [… to Anglicization]’ (Spriggs, 2004). It was international in its outlook yet intensely parochial in celebrating its sense of place. It was rebellious, unorthodox, irreverent, profound and a lot of fun. As a cultural totem the plen an gwari is the perfect foundation for us as we rebuild our inclusive, forward-looking and celebratory sense of Cornish nationhood.