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Spanish SpacesLandscape, Space and Place in Contemporary Spanish Culture$

Ann Davies

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9781846318221

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846317750

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(p.1) Chapter One Introduction
Spanish Spaces
Liverpool University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This book derives from the field of cultural geography in an attempt to reflect on the terrain of the entity known as Spain, through the prism of scholarly interest in contemporary Spanish cinematic and literary texts. It suggests how landscape, space and place become the means by which texts invoke different meanings on the word ‘Spain’. It also presents case studies from contemporary Spanish culture. An overview of the chapters included in this book is finally given.

Keywords:   cultural geography, Spain, landscape, space, place, contemporary Spanish culture, Spanish cinematic texts, Spanish literary texts

The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.

Alan Jay Lerner

Despite all you may have heard to the contrary, the rain in Spain stays almost invariably in the hills.

Michael Flanders

This book derives from my readings from the field of cultural geography in an attempt to reflect on the terrain of the entity known as Spain, through the prism of my scholarly interest in contemporary Spanish cinematic and literary texts. A further motivation is the difficulties I and others wrestle with in Hispanic Studies as we try to investigate questions bounded by an idea of nation, in an era when the whole notion of a nation is open to dispute and indeed discredit. Some scholars now talk of an era of ‘post-nationalism’ and sometimes by implication post-nation-ism, but the concept of nation, including that of the Spanish nation, still has some currency. As Joan Ramon Resina puts it, ‘political subjects themselves continue to correlate with their national foundation in ways that cannot simply be bracketed out of the political discourse’ (Resina 2002: 377); the same could be said of cultural discourse as well. To take just one example, the field of Spanish film studies increasingly encounters difficulties over the now strongly questioned concept of a Spanish national cinema as if the latter simply reproduced an essential, authentic Spain within its films and were impervious to outside influence. Guarding against the impulse to be normative as to what Spanish cinema is has proved vital, particularly in an era of co-production and the ever-pervasive influence of American cinema (as first among other cinemas), but it does then raise questions as to what Spanish cinema actually is, and also it complicates the process of writing about the topic while trying to pick one's way through a normative minefield. I have great difficulties with the idea of a cultural text simply acting as a surface which we can scrape away to find an essential Spain underneath, thus the avoidance of essentialism in Spanish film studies as well as Spanish cultural studies more widely is something I find welcome; but it (p.2) sometimes conflicts with not only my desire but my academic responsibility to write about something called ‘Spain’.

A similar difficulty arises when talking of Spain in terms of cultural geography. Landscape in particular (I will talk later about definitions of landscape as well as of space and place) can come to function as a surface which points to a national or regional entity lying behind it. As Mike Crang observes, ‘landscapes may be read as texts illustrating the beliefs of the people. The shaping of the landscape is seen as expressing social ideologies, that are then perpetuated and supported through the landscape’ (Crang 1998: 27). If a landscape – or other spaces and places – can be read as a text, the same danger of essentialism lies behind it. Yet the desire persists to endow landscape, space and place with specific meaning, including that of national and/or regional specificity. ‘Spain’ as a term may be heavily compromised, to the point of cliché at times, but it must still mean something. Yet Spain is an intriguing case in this regard. We could, for instance, define Spain according to its territorial borders; but those borders have shifted over the years and continue to be contested today (most specifically in the Basque Country, some members of which look to independence from Spain). Or we could take the internationally familiar touristic spaces – beaches and bullrings – as quintessentially Spain, for Spaniards as well as tourists, since the Spanish stand to make tourist income from such spaces. But this neglects the fact that much of daily life in Spain does not take place in such spaces, that Spain has a varied terrain, that historically the meseta rather than the beach has been understood within Spain to represent the Spanish character (of which more below), showing a discrepancy in what the essential Spain might be depending on whether you are inside or outside it.

Or, indeed, we might consider the two phrases with which I headed this chapter. One is more accurate about the relationship of climate to landscape than the other, but neither comment attempts in fact to define Spain for us in any way. The first phrase, from Lerner and Loewe's musical My Fair Lady, is simply an exercise in English elocution, and geographical accuracy be damned: nonetheless the phrase makes sense even if it is inaccurate (one of the difficulties of life on the meseta is a paucity of rain), and endows Spain with some sort of meaning. The second phrase, part of the Flanders and Swann singing duo's comedy routine, clearly riffs off the first. It is geographically more accurate, and yet correcting an erroneous impression of Spanish geography is hardly its point. Its purpose is to raise a laugh precisely by confounding a clichéd expectation. Yet in both cases the play on words evokes a notion of Spanish terrain with which we can interact if we wish. Indeed, the comments suggest that Spain can become a free-floating signifier which can be made to carry almost any meaning and weight. And with this we are back at the challenge of giving the term ‘Spain’ specific resonance while nonetheless allowing for it to be a flexible signifier if (p.3) not a free-floating one. A subject (Lerner and Flanders in this case) may use ‘Spain’ for his or her own ends which do not directly relate to the affirmation of the nation, but that nation is nonetheless evoked as a trace, and a trace that can be carried across texts.

It is this trace of Spain evoked in different ways, sometimes ways far removed from the easy equation of Spain with beach, bullring and meseta, that interests me here. The two quotations with which I began use the term ‘Spain’ specifically for their own purposes which have nothing to do with geographical representation, yet in doing so they call to mind myriad potential meanings and evocations which all coalesce around ‘Spain’ and have to do with its representation as territory, and as landscape, space and place. If we require a more scholarly example of the passing invocation of Spain we can find one on the opening page of Derek Gregory's Geographical Imaginations (Gregory 1994: 3), where he begins with a quotation from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's account of his Spanish geography lesson and the construction of a map of Spain. Spain is incidental to the points Gregory wishes to make and he never refers to it again, yet it is conjured up by his use of the example nonetheless, and indeed in ways which coincide with the ideas I will draw on here. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry talks of Spain becoming his friend and of its transformation into a fairyland as he maps it: this suggests the ideas I will draw on below, wherein the subject avows a desire of association for a Spain always in the process of becoming (like de Saint-Exupéry's map), and the landscape of Spain as a space wherein the subject's own desires can be realised, like a fairyland. My intention in this book is far from that of endowing ‘Spain’ with an essential meaning, but it is more tentatively to examine some examples of how others have used Spanish spaces in which ‘Spain’ comes to trace itself across more personal desires and motivations. The examples here suggest how landscape, space and place become the means by which texts, through their negotiations with these spaces, conjure up different meanings on the word ‘Spain’.

Dreams of presence and the desire of association

The undergirding theoretical strand from cultural geography I intend to use here has been elaborated by Mitch Rose. Rose finds that generally the body of scholarship on landscape as a cultural construct ‘has been conceptualised as simply a representation of culture and cultural ideologies, and the aim of landscape studies has been to read the landscape for a fuller understanding of the cultural system it reflects’ (Rose 2006: 538). In order to develop an alternative theory, Rose borrows a term from Jacques Derrida to talk of ‘dreams of presence’, which ‘mark both an imagination of, and a movement towards, presence. [Dreams of presence] are indicative of a fundamental inclination (p.4) towards association, from which other conceptions of presence are derived and sustained’ (ibid.). He goes on to define these ‘dreams of presence’ further:

Dreams of presence emphasise not only the imaginative quality to culture (that is, an ‘imagined’ or ‘dreamt’ system of coherent, self-evident inherited fixtures) but, more importantly, its illusory realisation … dreams of presence, like all dreams, are impossible possibilities. They signal things named, invested in, nurtured and cared for through a moving towards, rather than through a holding of. Thus, culture, as a dream of presence, is only present from a distance. It presents a set of possibilities held out towards us, clear from afar but always-already unattainable. To talk of dreams of presence, therefore, is to talk about the work of culture – that is, the movement of holding and caring, the performance of closure and encirclement, and the inclination to turn away from alterity. It is the ‘again and again’ desire for full presence that never arrives. (Rose 2006: 545)

Elsewhere he talks of dreams of presence as ‘our dreams of being a subject, our dreams of living in a world of constancy and transparency, our dreams of predictable expectations and outcomes, our dreams of being immune to the forces that constantly shift our desires’ (Rose 2004: 465). Thus dreams of presence do not assume, as givens, subjectivity, society, nation, but they do assume our desire for them to a greater or lesser degree. If it is impossible ever to give full meaning to ourselves as subjects or to the nations or regions in which we live, nonetheless we retain the desire to make ourselves and themselves mean something.

Landscape, in Rose's terms, becomes both ‘an unfolding plane of sensory, affective, or perceptual markers registering and, thus, effecting the emergence … of subjectivity’ and also the ‘active depositing of those markers’ (Rose 2006: 547). For my purposes, then, the landscape, space and place of Spain is not something off which we can read Spanish culture and ideology, but an entity that gestures towards an explicit or implicit desire to bestow ‘Spain’ with meaning, simultaneous with the emergence of subjectivity, even as that desire and meaning can vary. A particular advantage of Rose's theorisation from my point of view is that it bypasses the temptation sometimes to be found in Spanish textual studies to scrape away the surface of the text – or indeed the landscape – and find the real Spain underneath, yet still allows the term ‘Spain’ to resonate with meaning. Spanish landscapes, spaces and places are not ‘a reflection of deeper cultural forces’ but ‘a consequence of the various practices surrounding and investing in the resources it [the landscape] provides’ (ibid.: 550). Rose's ‘call to care’ ‘is defined by its direction – that is, by its orientation towards attachment – rather than in terms of where it arrives (culture, community, nationality, etc.)’ (ibid.: 543). ‘Spain’, then, is a constant cultural process of becoming that is conjured up by ‘care’ – in the case of Spain, a ‘commitment’ to it, perhaps presupposed by considering oneself as Spanish but always presupposed by a subject's desire. (p.5) ‘Spain’, in this sense, never arrives, never becomes fully formed: it becomes an impossible possibility or a dream.

The idea of a Spain that is a promise never quite fulfilled may seem on one level nonsensical; Spain is not a term of potential but of actuality, expressing a concrete reality of a politically understood territory bound by the Pyrenees and France to the north and the Mediterranean to the south and east, with Portugal to its west: to enter this Spanish space you must go through some form of border control. It has cities and towns, landmarks, we recognise as belonging to Spain: Spain is where you will find them. If Spain has France and Portugal on its borders, the term ‘Spain’ serves nonetheless to distinguish it from France and Portugal. Such raw geographical data, however, take no account of the subjective desires from which arise the interrelation of Spanish space and place with the trace of ‘Spain’ invoked by those desires. Rose goes on to argue that ‘although cultural theory explains what we care for and how care transpires, there is no explanation or recognition of the call of care itself – that is, of the desire to associate and attach that is heeded through such performative gestures’ (Rose 2006: 544). What this book aims to do is to consider this ‘desire to associate and attach’ as it plays itself out across Spanish spaces through cultural texts. The role of landscape – and, by extension, I would like to argue, space and place more generally – is to ‘engender investment not by having or, much less, by “naturalising” meaning but by gathering other narratives, practices, and encounters around them’ (ibid.: 549). And, further, such landscape ‘speaks to people, beckoning them to care. In this sense, it engenders dreams of presences (expressions of care) that allow those living within the landscape to imagine, cultivate, and move towards their world (and their place within it) as present and, in the process, to experience it more intensively’ (ibid.).

Landscape: that with which we see

This particular idea can be taken in conjunction with John Wylie's notion of the landscape as ‘that with which we see’. Wylie observes that ‘landscape might best be described in terms of the entwined materialities and sensibilities with which we act and sense’ (Wylie 2007: 215) and, further, ‘Landscape … is a perceivingwith, that with which we see, the creative tension of self and world’ (ibid.: 217). The landscape, spaces and places I will discuss here are a means by which Spain can be perceived as an object of commitment. By this I do not mean that the people who move through these spaces necessarily demonstrate some sort of overt patriotism: indeed, the question of commitment in this book includes a chapter on the question of Basque nationalism, the implicit (or explicit) notion that Spain should be constituted or even shaped differently. Commitment here entails a sense of attachment to the spaces and places through which (p.6) the characters I discuss move and act, a sense of association that never quite materialises but always hovers as a possibility, a trace within the many interpretative possibilities of Spanish space. It is an invocation or trace of Spain that echoes back and forth between landscape and subject, whether that echo carries positive or negative resonance for the latter. Wylie's mention of self and world implies a subjectivity that previously came under scrutiny and into disrepute in landscape studies, since it could imply the subject as ‘master of all he surveyed’, the masculine gender here being appropriate as the landscape itself was considered as feminine, open to the male gaze (as critiqued, for instance, in Gillian Rose 1993). But Mitch Rose's and Wylie's theoretical frameworks bring the subject back in, but in a way that does not necessarily mean that the subject possesses the space (though it does not preclude it): the subject shows commitment to the space, and yet it is through that space that the subject demonstrates commitment, both to Spain as a term with meaning but also to other, personal desires.

Both Rose and Wylie stress the role of what Wylie calls ‘landscape writing’ – personal, biographical and narrative accounts of the landscape, which, he argues, have recently burgeoned (the examples he mentions are all from the British Isles: Wylie 2007: 207). Such ‘writing’, Wylie argues, emphasises ‘the continuing trace of the subject, of subjects, howsoever ghostly, or embodied, relational and contingent’ (ibid.: 213). By this he means people's narratives of their own encounters with spaces – encounters that are direct, active and engaged. An example is Wylie's earlier account of his walk on Glastonbury Tor, that walk providing his own landscape ‘text’ (Wylie 2002). Elsewhere, he talks of co-presence, landscape and self together, which requires bodily presence in the landscape, of being- and becoming-in-the world (Wylie 2009: 279). As the saying goes, you had to be there. That is not what I offer here: instead we are looking at texts in which some people account for other people's encounter with Spanish spaces; and these others are usually – but not always – fictional. We are not therefore talking of bodily presence in the sense Wylie means, but a multiplicity of levels within which the subjects of the narrative are ‘present’, but we are not. But Wylie also helps us to account for absence, drawing on Derrida's notion that ‘“the body” and its sensibilities are always a matter of prosthetics, augmentations, displacements, substitutions – different “appearances of flesh”’ (ibid.: 277). Although Wylie uses Derrida's ideas in a different sense to what I intend here, these ideas nonetheless account for the layered experience that involves textual characters as well as both the producers and consumers of these characters. Wylie argues that Derrida's questioning of the idea of presence can provide ‘a sort of ghosting and dislocating … that thus entwines landscape with absence’ (ibid.: 280). If, as Wylie has said, landscape is that with which we see, ghosting and dislocation use landscape, space and place with which to see without us necessarily being bodily present.

(p.7) Not only this, but textual landscape, space and place enhance our awareness of the multiplicity of ways in which the desire to bring ‘Spain’ into existence traces itself across the personal desires of subjects. Henri Lefebvre would argue against this in terms of film at least, commenting that film and images promote ‘error’ and ‘illusion’ over space, fragmenting it, detaching space from lived time, ‘everyday time’ (Lefebvre 1991: 96–7). On the other hand, Doreen Massey argues for space as ‘the sphere of the possibility of the existence of multiplicity/difference’ (Lury and Massey 1999: 231), and argues, referring back to Lefebvre, that if space is the product of spatial relations, then ‘for there to be relations there must be coexisting multiplicity’ (ibid.: 232). Karen Lury in the same piece argues that ‘Space and place are therefore useful as a way of understanding how film makes social relationships visible, or how they are articulated through the visual and aural capabilities of film and television’ (ibid.). Texts, then, including film and images, allow for this multiplicity to become apparent: experience of textual space is also in any case a part of our lived daily experience. ‘Seeing’ Spain, understanding Spain as a cultural process of always coming into being but never fully realised, involves not only people's own personal experiences but also what others make of those experiences. This allows us, then, to draw on our own direct texts and as well as on those of others. But, further, the concept of fictional narratives, which I will largely be dealing with here, allows a further demonstration of a call to care by the fact that these are projections in the imagination of a negotiated sense of belonging; and because they are fiction they also suggest Rose's emphasis on the desire to attach and associate. They are promises of community that are always coming into being but never quite arrive. They also point to what Graeme Harper and Jonathan Rayner describe as the performative aspect of landscape, space and place (Harper and Rayner 2010: 22).

Robert Rosenstone, writing about film and history, discusses Jill Godmi-low's film Far from Poland (1983), which deals with the Solidarity movement, and observes that if the director

cannot tell the real story, she learns why nobody else can tell it either – for there is no real story to tell, but only a series of ways of representing, thinking about and looking at the Polish movement. Yet for all the open admission of the personal stake of the filmmaker-historian in the outcome of the work and the problematic of representation and knowledge that the film underlines, Far from Poland ends up by making strong claims for the importance of the history of Solidarity (about which we do learn a good deal). (Rosenstone 1996: 208)

I would suggest that Godmilow and Rosenstone's way of presenting history on film could also apply geographically. In the case of Spain, there is only a ‘series of ways of representing, thinking about and looking at’ it, but despite the problems of representation and knowledge and the standpoint of the people (p.8) who create texts and narratives about Spain, we can still learn something about it and the desire to associate with it expressed through the movement of people across its terrain.

A bifocal geography of commitment

This book, then, will offer case studies from contemporary Spanish culture, drawn primarily from film and literature, in which we can explore how characters use the space and place with which they interact to show a call to association with the nation to some degree, a desire to shape, perhaps even possess, space as nation according to their lights, so that Spain becomes a promise of a certain fulfilment that never quite comes to fruition. I intend to draw out some of the meanings, some of the different desires to associate, that cluster around Spain. In this I cannot and do not aim to be comprehensive. Rather, I intend to demonstrate how some of these clusters of desires to care and association might form: there are, of course, others. The case studies I have selected arise from my own personal interests, sometimes drawing on previous research.

If my own personal interests are called into play, the question then arises: what stake do I have in talking about Spanish landscape, space and place, and textual negotiations of them? What of my own subjectivity? I agree with Gregory that ‘one of the implications of contemporary cultural studies is that we are all trespassers now’ (Gregory 1994: 134), but while Anglophone study of Spain must acknowledge and embrace the notion of trespass as both justification and warning, I do not want to leave it at that. I take further support from Gregory when he says that: ‘To assume that we are entitled to speak only of what we know by virtue of our own experience is not only to reinstate an empiricism: it is to institutionalize parochialism’ (ibid.: 205). It is hard to calculate how far I could arguably be said to know Spain even as a Hispanist, and whether I know more and better than the people in Spain who undergo in reality the textual problems and questions I discuss. But I believe my position as somebody studying these texts can also be included in the cultural geographical theorisation posited here. I talked above of the stake that people may have in a desire to associate in some way with a geographical entity that either is, or makes up part of, Spain. I also talked of Wylie's idea of ‘landscape writing’, of the subject's textual encounter with the landscape. This book, surely, is my own landscape writing; and yet my own position is inevitably compromised. Part of my ‘stake’ is quite simply a professional need to write books, to analyse cultural texts, preferably within a given theoretical framework. But that is – fortunately – only part of the story, for my choice of research field implies its own call to care. I find it hard to conceive of an encounter with a landscape that can be as direct as in Wylie's suggestion of co-presence (all our encounters must be mediated in (p.9) negotiation with the ideas and previous experiences we bring to the encounter), and firmly believe that many of our encounters of space and place are not experienced directly and are none the worse for that. I do, however, have to account for the fact that I, as I research and write, am often some distance away from the object of my study. But Wylie's use of Derridean ghosting may allow me to do precisely this. While Rose talks of a desire for association, Wylie conceives of what he calls a ‘geography of love’ – at first blush a puerile-sounding term, but in fact both apposite and conceptually important for what I wish to do; for Wylie talks of love in terms of separation or space between:

Love may commonly be conceived in terms of fusion, of self with other, with self, even with place and landscape … But it is actually this fusion of self and landscape, person and place, that love shatters … the geographies of love might instead describe a separation or rupture – another articulation of distance, absence, dispersal.

To put this more positively, perhaps, the geographies of love would describe a certain exposure to the other. The gap, fracture or absence that is their original equally and always entails an openness, an originary exposure of the self to externality and alterity. (Wylie 2009: 284)

And, in support, Wylie quotes John D. Caputo: ‘to love the other on this model requires always to respect that distance, which means that love is not the desire to have the other for oneself or to get something back from the other in return, but the unconditional affirmation of the other’ (ibid.: 285).

While Rose stresses direction towards a desire to belong and to fuse with the object of the call to care, even as he acknowledges its impossible realisation, Wylie gives greater emphasis to distance, a gap between. While ‘love’ may be too emotive a word to describe my academic orientation towards Spain, we could perhaps see it as a geography of commitment that embraces distance and separation as well as a desire for association embodied in applying oneself to a field of study coterminous with a particular geographical area, in this case Spain. I can perceive myself as a ‘ghost’ (an intriguing idea for an academic), absent yet present in using the landscape, space and place with which both the textual characters, as well as the producers of those characters and thus myself, see Spain. John Durham Peters' concept of seeing bifocally may also help here:

The space that we have to discern and portray as bifocal readers of culture – as scholars and citizens – is thoroughly Kafkaesque. The world beyond the local exists as a visible totality only in discourse and image, though its fragmentary and scattered effects are all too evident in the lives of flesh-and-blood people. If we are to criticize it or falsify it, our only tools are more representations. (Peters 1997: 91)

The idea of layer upon layer of representation – and only representation – is surely accurate if a little depressing initially, but we can also understand it (p.10) more positively when understood alongside Derrida's ghosting and dislocation that Wylie incorporates into his geographies of love. Peters' reference to Kafka concerns the levels of paranoia in Kafka's character K's world in which we cannot tell if what K perceives is real or his own paranoid projection. Kafkaesque paranoia reflects to some degree the anxiety reflected by any researcher in commenting on any entity of which they are not a direct part – how to do justice to that entity while nonetheless acknowledging the impossibility of being totally true to it.1 Rose, in commenting on Wylie's concept of the geographies of love, suggests that he and Wylie are standing in the same place but ‘not so much shoulder to shoulder but back to back, seeing the same situation but interested in different things’ (Rose 2009: 142). For me the Janus-like image of the two theorists standing back to back allows for a crucial corrective – to retain the dream of presence but also its Kafkaesque qualities. Since much of this book will deal with film, it is also useful that Wylie's idea works against Mike Crang's concern that the ‘flickering images’ of film might ‘suture the viewer into the impossible plenitude of a complete (self-present) subjectivity’ (Crang 2002: 17). While both Rose and Crang recognise the impossibility of and yet the desire for plenitude – the coming into being that never arrives – Wylie's stance suggests the loss and separation that work against the illusion of suture. Wylie allows us to recognise desires without illusions.

Definitions of landscape, space and place

In my title and discussion I refer frequently to the concepts of landscape, space and place: terms that I believe overlap but which are not necessarily synonymous. The underlying idea I hold here is that trying to distinguish too precisely between the terms is unhelpful when it comes to discerning a dream of presence of Spain which is always in process: it stands to reason then that the geographical entities of space, place and landscape that go to make up this Spain are also always in the process of becoming while never being fully formed – and thus fully fixed. The definition of landscape, for example, often implies scenery, something gazed upon by a viewer who commands a panoramic perspective – the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich are often mentioned in this regard. Jean Mottet argues that ‘to be a landscape, the space must be organized into a coherent unit’, and this unit is created through distance (Mottet 2006: 65). But the relationship of the viewer who gazes can rapidly change from observation to a desire for attachment, in which case the definition of landscape turns out to be more slippery: it becomes converted into place. Kenneth Olwig draws on Yi-Fi Tuan to argue that landscape masks place: ‘A visual image of place as thing, of landscape as scene, has thus appropriated the socially defined place of people in the political landscape’ (Olwig 2002: 220). The possibility to look (p.11) behind the scenery (and Olwig is playing here with a concept of scenery as a theatrical construct used on stage and simultaneously other representational ideas of landscape) is denied us. Defining landscape along these lines, however, draws us into the danger of assuming that there is a ‘real’ country, a ‘real’ place – in this case, Spain – under the surface, if only we could look behind or beneath that surface to find it. Olwig also draws on the Merriam–Webster dictionary to note the tension between the different definitions of landscape as either scenery without boundaries or a bounded region; but apparently it cannot be both. A similar tension exists between space and place (ibid.: 222–3). But, as Martin Lefebvre argues, there is no reason why landscape and territory cannot be terms applied to the same specific space: it is for him a ‘pragmatic’ matter and depends on the subject's relation to the land (Lefebvre 2006b: 54).

Place and space may not necessarily be synonymous: Tuan, for instance, sees place as subsumed under space by means of its specificity, a location ‘to be understood from the perspectives of the people who have given it meaning’ (Tuan, cited in Olwig 2002: 215). Erica Carter, James Donald and Judith Squires, like Tuan, also distinguish between space and place in terms of identity:

If places are no longer the clear supports of our identity, they nonetheless play a potentially important part in the symbolic and psychical dimension of our identifications. It is not spaces that ground identifications, but places.

How then does space become place? By being named: as the flows of power and negotiations of social relations are rendered in the concrete form of architecture; and also, of course, by embodying the symbolic and imaginary investments of a population. Place is space to which meaning has been ascribed. (Carter, Donald and Squires 1993: xii)

On this basis we could argue that the desire to associate with a community known as ‘Spain’ involves turning spaces into places, but the issue is not so clear-cut. Michel de Certeau, for instance, also draws on a space–place binary but gives a greater positive value to space:

A place (lieu) is the order (of whatever kind) in accord with which elements are distributed in relationships of coexistence … The law of the ‘proper’ rules in the place … [and] implies an indication of stability.

A space exists when one takes into consideration vectors of direction, velocities, and time variables. Thus space is composed of intersections of mobile elements. It is in a sense actuated by the ensemble of movements deployed within it…. In contradistinction to the place, it has none of the univocity or stability of a ‘proper’.

In short, space is practiced place. (de Certeau 1984:117)

De Certeau's definitions imply that if Spain cannot essentially be fixed for all time, then it must be a space and not a place, because its status of always becoming goes against the fixity of place.

(p.12) W. J. T. Mitchell, however, calls for us to avoid a binary use of the notions of space and place, arguing that often we use the terms fairly indiscriminately along with the term landscape (Mitchell 2002: viii) and that a triadic structure would function better (ibid.: x). He observes that – as is common with the use of binaries – one term in the space–place binary acquires negative resonances. If de Certeau sees place as constricting and confining while space allows for movement, space can also be seen as abstract and imprecise while place resonates with lived experience (ibid.: ix). A general negative meaning for any of these terms is something I wish to avoid, though in saying this I do not preclude the possibility that a desire for association can manifest in negative ways such as exploitation and exclusion. But I also wish to use the three terms as fluid – because, as Mitchell notes, that is how we use these terms in practice. It is the fluidity of these terms that I feel is important when it comes to Rose and Wylie's theories. For our purposes, following Rose's theory of a desire to associate or care, the term used to describe a particular location may pivot around the specific form of that desire. If we add to this Wylie's concept of the landscape (or space, or place) as that with which we see, then the term used for this location may be not so important as the resultant visualisation – the form – of the desire.

Other theorists take one term and subdivide it. Marc Augé famously distinguishes between place and non-place: he observes that ‘If a place can be defined as relational, historical and concerned with identity, then a space which cannot be defined as relational, or historical, or concerned with identity will be a non-place’ (Augé 1995: 77–8). As regards the non-places, Augé has in mind here the airport and the supermarket (ibid.: 78), places that look everywhere the same and follow a similar globalised pattern; airports have generic spaces such as seating areas, shops, check-in desks and restaurants that repeat themselves in style and substance across the globe without any local cultural values impinging. But this does not preclude the desire to co-opt such spaces into our own personal, regional and national histories and identities. On even a most basic level an airport can signal national or regional identity simply by using particular languages that demonstrate a desire for association: a visitor passing through Barcelona's Prat airport will see signs in Catalan as well as Spanish and English. The ability to read or recognise the signs will depend on how far this visitor is aware of and subscribes to ‘Catalanity’, but for those who do to any degree this non-place becomes a place in Augé's terms, even if that recognition only applies to an association of language with place without necessarily being able to understand the former. It can even work negatively: the visitor who disapproves of the efforts to protect Catalan and believes that Spanish is being marginalised is still expressing a personal conception of Catalonia and its relation to Spain. We shall see more about how these conflicting visions (p.13) of Spain can still be thought of as dreams of presence – a desire for Spain to become – in the next two chapters as we consider how the landscape offers very contrasting ideas of Spanish history. It is hard not to see Augé's theorisation as nostalgia for a past way of life where place was unaffected by the increased circulation of goods and people. He remarks that ‘“Anthropological place” is formed by individual identities, through complicities of language, local references, the unformulated rules of living know-how; non-place creates the shared identity of passengers, customers or Sunday drivers’ (ibid.: 101), and ‘The space of non-place creates neither singular identity nor relations; only solitude and similitude’ (ibid.: 103). But he ignores our impulse that Rose has rightly identified, to want to make place out of non-place, to give it meaning. As Marcus Doel has observed, ‘Place and placelessness are no longer opposed, as the humanistic geographers believed. Hereinafter, a place is both NowHere and NoWhere … Placement, like spacing, happens on a Möbius strip’ (Doel 2000: 124).

Alternatively some theorists subdivide the concept of space, and here we arrive at the seminal theorisation of Henri Lefebvre, who proposes three different types of space: spatial practice (the space we perceive), representations of space (the space we conceive of) and spaces of representation (lived space) (Lefebvre 1991: 38–9; also Soja 1996: 65). Edward Soja uses these ideas as the basis for his own definitions. Spatial practice, which Soja terms Firstspace, is what we perceive ‘straightforwardly’, it is what society works at to have us presuppose when we see a landscape, what Soja describes as ‘materialized, socially produced and empirical space … directly sensible and open, within limits, to accurate measurement and description’ (Soja 1996: 66). Representations of space, or Soja's Secondplace, are where the meanings of the Firstspace are conceived and produced: spaces of power and ideology, and of surveillance (ibid.: 66–7). Spaces of representation – Soja's Thirdspace – are distinct from the previous two but also include them. Power is made manifest but for that very reason they are also counterspaces that resist the prevailing ideology (ibid.: 67–8). Both theorisations are bound up with ideas of power, and that incorporates state power as regards the national space: ‘state power endures only by virtue of violence directed towards a space’ (Lefebvre 1991: 280). One more example of splitting definitions of space comes with the smooth and striated spaces of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus. Striated spaces are those where the state has sway: they are controlled, mapped and organised spaces. Smooth spaces are the interstices between striated, organised spaces, interstices which the state targets for striation: ‘One of the fundamental tasks of the State is to striate the space over which it reigns, or to utilize smooth spaces as a means of communication in the service of striated space’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 385). Deleuze and Guattari further define smooth spaces as nomad space while striated is sedentary (reminiscent of de (p.14) Certeau's distinction between space and place discussed above). The two sorts of spaces can in fact mix and converge, translate into each other (ibid.: 474).

These concepts all divide space in terms of power over it, and in consequence some spaces are preferred over others as spaces of resistance or freedom from dominant powers and ideologies. In what follows in subsequent chapters, power is hardly irrelevant: in particular, the conflict between the Spanish state and Basque nationalists over whether or not the Basque space forms part of Spain invokes these negative senses of power as state control. These concepts do not, moreover, preclude the fluidity of power across these spaces. As Cara Aitchison, Nicola E. MacLeod and Stephen J. Shaw observe, ‘If social and cultural geographies teach us anything … it is that power can be viewed as contested and fluid. The spatial representation and manifestation of power can change over time, be disrupted across space, and even transgressed within the same space or in the betweenness of space’ (Aitchison, MacLeod and Shaw 2000: 24). However, these concepts of power do not fit neatly on to Rose and Wylie's frameworks that I intend to use here. Power is certainly bound up with the issues that they mention – desire becoming but never fully being, the ghosting of absence – and will certainly feature in the subsequent cases I discuss; but desire for association, the desire to bridge the gap between the subject and the object of commitment, a desire that nonetheless acknowledges the distance – these issues are not simply about power but also about other hopes, plans and emotions, the different ways in which subjects use landscape to invoke their own definition of the term ‘Spain’.

The Spanish case

James W. Fernandez attempts to define space and place specifically in terms of the Iberian peninsula: space becomes ̒any bounded and self-contained subject of thought, such as a book, or a geophysical part of the world, such as the Iberian Peninsula, which is itself subject to geometric dimensioning (Fernandez 2008: 271), the peninsula here meaning Spain but also Portugal. He continues,

A place is more than that! It is a space that is culturally constructed and invested with particular meaning in more than a diagrammatic or collocational sense. The Iberian Peninsula, a space, for example, can be constructed, as it is by some, as a bridge to the North African world and Islamic Culture. Spanish Culture, hence, is seen as a mediating culture between conflicting civilizations. Or it can be constructed by others, as it is by the EU, as a farthest outpost of European civilization and a bulwark of defense against African and Islamic incursion and emigration into Europe! There are, of course, various intermediate cultural constructions of any space. (Fernandez 2008: 272)

Fernandez clearly valorises place above space because for him places are that which are both framed by and which carry cultural resonance. Space on these (p.15) terms is culture free. This, however, neglects the notion of space as bounded and self-contained – who or what placed those boundaries? In the case of Spain many of its boundaries are impelled by physical geographical features, but the boundary of Spain and Portugal has not always been so fixed. His definition of place likewise skates over some of the more negative views of Spain as primitive other as seen from outside, as we shall see in Chapter 8. Spain's noble purpose, on the other hand – the use of the word ‘civilisation’ is double-edged – is not coterminous with but nonetheless carries resonances of the unified Francoist Spain dreaming of the recuperation of its empire and standing firm against Communism.

Fernandez's definitions, while not drawn on further in this book, nonetheless demonstrate an occasion when Spain – or Iberia – is defined in cultural geographical terms. Fernandez writes from the perspective of cultural anthropology: the survey by Sharon Roseman and Shawn S. Parkhurst (2008) concerning Spain and Portugal as foci for cultural anthropological work demonstrates a rich tradition of discussing Spain in terms of space and place (however defined). But if cultural anthropology takes an interest, Anglo-American cultural geography rarely does, beyond Spain's intermittent appearance in (unsurprisingly) tourism studies. Lacking either the picturesque landscapes or the industrial history of, for example, Great Britain, Germany or the United States, while also having fallen by the wayside as a long spent superpower, seen for many years as underdeveloped in comparison to other Western European countries, neglected for years as an embarrassment in democratic Europe during the Franco years, outside the loop of twentieth-century history because it did not participate in the two World Wars, possessing a lengthy literary and artistic tradition that has nonetheless not been widely known beyond Spain – all these would be reasons why cultural geography, as part of the wider move towards cultural studies, has neglected Spain. Within Spain itself, cultural geography has not as yet taken root: a wider interest in social geography is intermittent, because it has never, as Maria Dolors García-Ramón, Abel Albet and Perla Zusman observe, ‘been understood as a potential driver of epistemological change in human geography, re-orientating human geography's underpinnings as with the cultural turn in Anglo-American geography’ (García-Ramón, Albet and Zusman 2003: 419). More specifically, cultural geography is conspicuous by its absence: ‘not a single reflection or elegy has been devoted’ to it (ibid.). Since these authors wrote their survey, a few individual articles are beginning to emerge: Agustín Gámir Orueta and Carlos Manuel Valdés, for example, offer an analysis on cinematic space but refer to Spanish films only rarely (Gámir Orueta and Manuel Valdés 2007). It is nastily tempting to see cultural anthropology as to some extent perpetuating the notion of Spain as still the primitive other to be observed, while landscape studies for its part has simply not seen the Spanish landscape as worth looking (p.16) at (or possessing, given some of the early stances in landscapes studies of the geographer as masterful observer and, by implication, possessor). Such observations are overly reductive but they have some small resonance in the presence of Spain as an object of study in one field and its absence in the other: the full explanation of this situation must necessarily be more complex and I do not attempt it here. But I refer once again to Rose's notion of the desire to associate which includes the desire of academic association, as well as Wylie's landscape (and space and place) being that with which we see. It is unsurprising that I as a Hispanist select Spain as my field of study. But its presence or absence in other fields does conjure up questions as to when, how and why cultural anthologists and geographers use space and place to see.

Although Spanish landscape, space and place have not resonated in the field of cultural geography to anything like the same extent as Anglo-American landscapes, Spain does have a landscape tradition of the land as hard and unforgiving, where its natural world is the red one of tooth and claw. The stark, empty landscapes of the Black Paintings of Goya did much to foster this idea, and it has been repeated in, for example, Federico García Lorca's Andalusia of Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding, 1933), where the inhabitants struggle to grow anything, the dry land of Vicente Blasco Ibáñez's La barraca (The Hovel, 1898), where the inhabitants fight over the scarce resource of water, or Buñuel's Las Hurdes: tierra sin pan (Land Without Bread, 1933). If, as Denis Cosgrove argues (Cosgrove 1998), landscape is linked to economic exploitation, this may explain why Spain is not readily associated with a landscape tradition in the way that Italy, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Germany are. The more barren landscapes did not invite themselves to visual representation as Cosgrove posits it. A tradition of deliberate landscaping was also for the most part wanting (Kamen 2008: 219). Landscape photography as an indigenous practice (as opposed to a form of pictorial colonialism) did not establish itself until the late nineteenth century at the very earliest (Fontanella 2005: 174), but to some extent cinema in the twentieth century has helped Spain catch up in representing its geography – or, at least, selected elements of this geography – to itself. What these spaces and places consisted of over the years would, as Marvin D'Lugo observes, shift in both meaning and emphasis according to developments in Spanish communities (D'Lugo 2010: 128). For example, the positive emphasis accorded to the countryside in the early Francoist period, according to Jesús González Requena (González Requena 1988: 19–20), shifted to an emphasis on provincial towns (ibid.: 23) as the ideological preference for the countryside on the part of Franco eroded in the face of improved communications that reduced distances between town and country as well as the need to open up to outside influences in terms of both politics and economics. Later, as an industrial drive took hold (which encouraged many workers to move from (p.17) the country to the city), films from the early 70s suggest a complex interrelation between city and country (ibid.: 24).

Katherine Kovács asserts that certain Spanish landscapes and locations ‘occupy a privileged position in the cinematic narrative, rivalling, and sometimes even surpassing, character and plot in importance’ (Kovács 1991: 17). When she argues, however, that this arises because of the importance of Spanish geography in shaping its history, her argument neglects the question of why a visual tradition of landscape, space and place did not develop to the same degree as in other countries. In terms of literature, the costumbrismo genre developed in the nineteenth century, and its emphasis on rural settings and customs continued to some extent into the twentieth century in some social realist novels after the Civil War. Of the spaces and places that comprise Spanish terrain, the barren plains of Castile have come to occupy a prominent role in cultural representations, particularly when nineteenth-century writers came to perceive Castile as ‘an expression of the soul of Spain’ (Kamen 2008: 220; see also Kovács 1991: 19). The plain or meseta is explicitly the focus of Kovács' article, as the title ‘The Plain in Spain’ punningly tells us. Such an emphasis is quite reasonable given her analysis of key films before and during the dictatorship. As Tom Whittaker contends, ‘this iconic landscape has emerged as the timeless, spiritual center of the nation, a marker of authentic Spanishness’ (Whittaker 2010). However, as Kovács notes, in the democratic era film-makers began to film other spaces: she focuses only on woodland, however, and her discussion links back to the period of the war and dictatorship through the depiction of resistance to Franco's regime in Furtivos (Poachers; José Luis Borau, 1975) and El corazón del bosque (Heart of the Forest; Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón, 1979) (Kovács 1991: 34–41). She does not comment on the increasing importance of urban space in Spanish cinema and literature, in particular through the oeuvre of Pedro Almodóvar, deriving from the urban-based movida culture of the early 1980s (sadly Kovács did not live to see Almodóvar's rise to international prominence above all other Spanish directors) and the novela negra as an expression of disenchantment (desencanto) after the initial high expectations upon the return to democracy. Neglected, too, is what I perceive to be an emphasis on coastal and border regions, while the absence of, for example, and in particular, the Basque rural tradition, suggests the persistence of the conflation of Spain with a timeless Castile, even as, as Fernandez observes, we have witnessed for some time now ‘a panorama of displacements as the developing autonomous governments seek to separate their identity from the national identity and centrality of Madrid by focusing on their own place in the peninsula, thus reconstructing the realities of their own cultures and polities’ (Fernandez 2008: 286). Other writers are now beginning to address some of these lacunae. Whittaker (2011) observes the shift of focus in film of the 70s to the landscapes of northern Spain (p.18) and more specifically the Basque Country, Nathan Richardson (2002) has also addressed rural landscapes in texts from the latter half of the twentieth century, while Sally Faulkner has written of the country–city divide in film adaptations of Spanish novels (Faulkner 2004: chap. 3). Paul Julian Smith took up spatial theories – in particular those of Lefebvre – to discuss both intellectual and social spaces within the Basque Country and the cities of Spain (Smith 2000: 75–132), while specific Iberian cities have also been the recent focus of critical attention (particularly in Resina 2001).

So what will this book cover? As I mentioned above, this book intends not to be comprehensive in its coverage of Spanish spaces, but to select case studies which seem to me particularly redolent of Rose's desire for association. These desires, in each case, manifest themselves differently through the landscape and they ‘see’ Spain in different ways. They also cohere around specific political and cultural concerns that have become prominent in contemporary Spain. Chapters 2 and 3, for example, coalesce around the question of memory that has recently taken on heightened political overtones in Spain with the passing in 2007 of the Ley de memoria histórica or Law of Historical Memory that aimed to help preserve the memories of those who were the losers in the Spanish Civil War.Chapter 2 considers the use of national landscapes to visualise a national and local call to care within a transnational product – Guillermo del Toro's highly successful El laberinto del fauno (Pan's Labyrinth, 2006) and his earlier film El espinazo del diablo (The Devil's Backbone, 2001). El laberinto and El espinazo offer landscapes of fantasy and horror generic to international and particularly Hollywood cinema, yet they simultaneously offer an opportunity to invoke a call to care through the desire to rewrite history as if the losers of the Spanish Civil War had in fact been the winners. A Spain with such a history can never in fact ‘be’, but it can in one sense become through the call to care for a Spain that ought to have been otherwise. A similar process can ironically be seen through those who originally won the Civil War, as I elucidate through the work of the maverick writer Gonzalo Torrente Ballester, who had a noted if problematic relationship with the Franco regime once the Civil War was won. The ludic and malleable landscapes which provide the setting for his novels also invoke a Spain that could be otherwise fashioned differently. In an era which now sees the right-wing legacy of the War and the subsequent dictatorship as unsurprisingly tainted, Torrente Ballester's landscapes demonstrate a wish that Spain could be constantly refashioned to suit the desires of the subject, but that such wishful thinking still has a tie to a ‘real’ Spain – the landscapes of Torrente Ballester's home region of Galicia.

Galicia, as one of Spain's ‘historical nationalities', with an autonomous government and its own language and culture, has its own awkward and potentially conflictive position as regards Spain: currently politically within Spain's (p.19) territorial borders but on some level claiming a distinction from Spain. If the question inevitably arises as to how a desire to associate with Spain can coincide with a desire to be distinct from it, how much more so in the case of the Basque Country, the subject of Chapter 4. In the cases of the autonomous communities we see a call to care for something other than Spain, but Spain is still invoked in this process and is given varying meanings in so doing: in addition, it is conjured up in the distancing and gap of Wylie's geography of love. Love, here, given the ongoing hostility and suspicion in some sectors of both Spain and the Basque Country, seems an anachronistic term at best: nonetheless, through the use of space and place to express discomfort with, distance from and denial of uncomfortable political and personal realities, Spain traces itself uncannily across the Basque landscape as an implicit other that must always be taken into account in the Basque Country. On the other hand, Spain itself may also deny uncomfortable realities about Basque history that also trace themselves across the landscape; and thus Spain and the Basque Country are locked in an uncomfortable and uncanny embrace.

Chapters 5 and 6 consider different aspects of another way in which the nation is constantly coming into being but never fully forms itself: the law and the breaking of that law. National law powerfully implies a nation that lies behind it; but the law also inevitably incorporates the possibility that laws can be broken, through criminal activity. Spain thus functions as a problematised trace in crime thrillers: the nation is constantly being remade as the law is continually and simultaneously broken and restored. In Chapter 5, I consider how the landscape reveals the constant oscillation between two forms of desire for association expressed through the breaking and restoring of the law. The restoration of law and order clearly shows a call to care in the re-establishment of the nation as conceived by law; but criminal activity shows a more malign form of a call to care by rendering Spain as vulnerable and thus open to exploitation for the subject's own criminal desires such as illegal gain. Chapter 6 continues with the theme of crime but focuses more closely on a specific group of people who take it upon themselves to restore order: female detectives. With this chapter we move towards a consideration of cityscapes through which the women move; and these landscapes render concrete the claim of women to subjectivity through detection: their own desire for association comes through their claiming of this subjectivity.

Women are also the focus of Chapter 7, on tourism. Much of cultural geography has written about tourism from the point of view of the tourist – quintessentially, for instance, in the case of John Urry's tourist gaze (Urry 2002). This chapter, however, examines the local population as subjects rather than objects of the tourist gaze, as they juggle the tensions between the beach as the site of Spanish tourism par excellence and the hinterland that forms their home (p.20) space. These spaces, through the characters' movement within and between them, come to negotiate the complex desires to render Spain precisely as home space; yet Spain can never come fully into being as home space precisely because of the functioning of these spaces as places of tourism. The gendered aspect of these characters’ occupation of those spaces also brings into play the various functions of women as objects of the tourist gaze and the attempts of these women to turn this into subjectivity whereby they attempt to realise their own desires.Chapter 8 considers a different aspect of Spain as seen from both inside and outside, that of immigration. The desire for association expressed through the landscape here revolves around an association that excludes, where the nation is defined by who belongs to it and who does not; and such a desire obviously carries malign possibilities depending on how subjects wish to define their Spain. The immigration considered in this chapter is specifically that of immigration from Africa, which brings into play Spain's uneasy position as a frontier between Europe and Africa: as some Spanish subjects desire to reinforce Spain's Europeanness by excluding those from Africa, ‘Spain’ also carries the trace of being seen itself as virtually a part of Africa, a more primitive place distinct from civilised European values (particularly those of the French).

As Doreen Massey has posited,

Instead … of thinking of places as areas with boundaries around, they can be imagined as articulated moments in networks of social relations and understandings, but where a large proportion of those relations, experiences and understandings are constructed on a far larger scale than what we happen to define for that moment as the place itself, whether that be a street, or a region, or even a continent (Massey 1994: 154)

Spain may be thought of as a series of articulated moments like these. Since these moments continue to come into being so Spain is a continuous, never to be completed process that is nonetheless recognisable as something called Spain.



(1) I am grateful to Dr Ian Biddle for his helpful suggestions on this point.