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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.164) Chapter Nine Conclusion
Spanish Spaces
Liverpool University Press

Abstract and Keywords

The Spain stitched together through a restoration of the law of the land seems different. This use of landscape, space and place is a crucial element in Spain. It is noted that the process of forming subjectivity and subjective perspectives of Spain is never ending. Spain as a term certainly possesses reactionary meanings. Spain is also an entity constantly in the process of becoming through the subjects that express their desires through the landscapes and thus associations with Spain through those very landscapes.

Keywords:   Spain, law of the land, landscape, space, place, subjectivity

One of the purposes of this book has been to reinvigorate the meaning of the word Spain as a term of more than simple convenience for academics. What that term means, of course, is another matter altogether. Given the case studies outlined here, the term resonates in different and often opposing ways. While both the films of del Toro and the novels of Torrente Ballester look to recover a Spain apparently lost, the Spains they imagine to be lost are very different, as are the reasons why recuperation is desirable. As regards the Basque Country, considered in Chapter 4, there are landscape traditions used to figure a different space wherein Spain may be resisted but must nonetheless be taken into account. The Spain stitched together through a restoration of the law of the land appears different depending on whether you are a local man taking on international crime lords and a corrupt local government or a woman juggling the spaces of work and home in a city. The porousness of borders can affect home life very differently if you are earning money through catering to foreign tastes for Spain as exotic and pleasurable, or if you feel threatened – or attracted – by the thought of foreigners coming to share your space on a more permanent basis. The explicitness of these characters' commitment to Spain varies, too. While in the earlier chapters an avowed struggle for a certain sort of Spain – or, indeed, against a certain sort of Spain – takes place, in later chapters characters are more likely to prioritise personal over patriotic concerns.

What all these chapters have in common, however, is their invocation, either explicitly or implicitly, of Spain through their interaction with landscape, space and place: it is the last that assists us in the perception of Spain as being evoked. This use of landscape, space and place is another crucial element of what I have wished to explore here. As I noted in the Introduction, the examination of these in Hispanic studies is beginning to develop; but the purpose of this particular analysis has been more precisely to attempt to tease out how Spain as a concept is seen explicitly or implicitly by subjects by means of landscape, space and place. This to me is important not because of a desire to essentialise these things – I do not feel that the spaces and places discussed here point to (p.165) an ideal Spain – but because of a desire to attempt to perceive the workings of cultural geography beyond the Anglo-American remit to which hitherto it has mostly been confined, but also quite simply to address the question of how such theories work here and not there, here being Spain, of course. I do not want the meaning of ‘Spain’ to be perceived solely as a relative concept which could mean virtually anything; it is worth remembering the tie of this term to a particular geographical shape we can point to on a map. Neither, however, do I want Spain to be thought of as some ideal Platonic form towards which these case studies and any others we care to consider might gesture but which they can never realise. There is a real Spain, but there is no perfect form of Spain, although it may be that some subjects wish there were, as the discussion of Torrente Ballester's novels raises as a possibility. It is not a question of how far individuals' understandings of and uses of the term ‘Spain’ coincide with an ideal reality, although a notion of such an ideal might well be a factor in these understandings and uses. As Mitch Rose has it, there is a dream of presence of Spain, but it is an entity always in the process of becoming, through the interactions of people with the landscape.

For, in contrast to the notion of the Platonic form, the subject is vital in this process of tracing Spain across landscape, space and place. When John Wylie insists on landscape as that with which we see, he places the subject in an intricate and necessary relationship with landscape, space and place that allows for Spain as a dream of presence to be constantly coming into being. We have moved away from the early position in landscape studies of the subject as master of all he surveys, through the intervention, among others, of Henri Lefebvre and de Certeau, who stressed space and place as items of use and interaction rather than simply observation, feminist theories that challenged the notion of masculine mastery, and all these theories and others that explicitly acknowledge the role of power and thus expose its workings (and these are simply edited highlights of all those theories that take issue with the notion of mastery). Wylie's theoretical position, however, allows the subject to come back in, in the process acknowledging the social, cultural and ideological position in which the subject is situated but explicitly recognising the importance of the subject in the process of the dream of presence. But the subject is hardly monolithic; thus we have a plethora of associations with landscape, space and place that means that Spain itself is not monolithic either. ‘Spain’, then, is the sum of all these subjective viewpoints – and not only those I have considered here – but, because the process of forming subjectivity and subjective perspectives of Spain is never ending, Spain is always in the process of becoming.

Doreen Massey comments, ‘The question is how to hold on to that notion of geographical difference, of uniqueness, even of rootedness if people want it, without it being reactionary’ (Massey 1994: 152). I would argue that the way (p.166) to ‘hold on’ to Spain is to consider the ways in which subjects express their personal desires – explicitly connected to the national or not – and how their interactions with the landscape call forth not only expressions of desire and of fears but how those desires and fears relate to where they are. These interactions, desires and fears do not preclude the reactionary by any means, but they are not confined to it. Spain as a term certainly possesses reactionary meanings, as with the use made of the idea of Spain by Franco and his followers; but it is also the enchanted land of Saint-Exupéry's map. Subjectivity allows meanings to coalesce around the term ‘Spain’, and the Spanish landscapes, spaces and places that go to make up the territory are the means by which we see this subjectivity expressed. When Mitch Rose talks of ‘the “again and again” desire for full presence that never arrives’ (Rose 2006: 545), we can readily see this is the constant expression of desire through place which can ultimately never be satisfied; and Spain is evoked as a trace in that these desires and longings manifest themselves in these places and spaces and not others, in a manner akin to Michael Billig's banal nationalism. Spain is at its most reductive a specific geographical area bounded by France, Portugal, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean but it is also an entity constantly in the process of becoming through the subjects that express their desires through the landscapes and thus associations with Spain through those very landscapes: Spain traces itself across these subjectivities. And these expressions of subjectivity and commitment include this book.