Reframing “Disenchantment”: Regulating Citizen Participation and Constructing Sites of Memory during Spain’s Transition to Democracy

Friday, January 2, 2015: 1:00 PM
Conference Room I (Sheraton New York)
Andrea Davis, University of California, San Diego
The citizen movement that flourished in Spain in the 1970s, during the final years of the Francoist dictatorship and initial years of the democratic transition, was hailed as “the largest and most significant urban movement in Europe since 1945” (Castells 1983). In stark contrast, exceedingly low levels of civic participation characterized the democratic period that immediately followed. While this phenomenon was popularly described as “disenchantment,” to date scholars have only offered speculative or limited accounts of this spectacular shift in civic behavior. The lack of scholarly attention can be explained, in part, by the nature of debates on Spain’s transition to democracy (1975-1982). Initially described as a model elite-transaction, only recently have scholars shifted their attention towards the general changes experienced in Spanish society and the role of sociopolitical movements in the democratizing process. While this new scholarship has made great strides in terms of explaining how the transition was prepared “from below,” the subsequent democratic period has received significantly less attention. The establishment of democracy has marked the end of inquiry as many have assumed that the democracy achieved was the final objective of elite and popular energies alike. I question this assumption. Focusing on the municipal case study of Santa Coloma de Gramenet, a working class city in Barcelona’s industrial belt, I analyze the contentious processes by which citizen participation was regulated and  “sites of memory” were constructed. I argue that the shift in civic behavior resulted from the refusal to institutionalize grassroots organizations and histories during the final years of the transition.
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