How would you define the Spaniards? What does Spanish popular culture look like? These questions might be addressed to the students of Syracuse University Madrid at any time during their stay. By the end of the semester, you should be able to furnish a critical response beyond stereotypes and clichés.
When it comes to grasping unfamiliar cultural singularities in their full complexity, only the critical use of empirically-based information provided by the social sciences, which involves the reflexive assessment of the potentialities, constraints, and limits attached to the multiple research methods and techniques that sociologists and other scientists commonly use, can help prevent the assumption of stereotypical, frequently ethnocentric, over-generalizations. Definitely, Spanish popular culture does not manifest as a coherent and immutable set of beliefs, representations, attitudes, and practices. Rather, it is a polymorphous, diverse, complex, socially stratified changing object. The adjective “popular” suggests its dialectical constitution with the “non-popular,” which is also far from being static. Therefore, answering questions such as “What is Spanish popular culture like?” requires prudence and caution.
During the course, you will examine the transformations of Spanish popular culture within the context of the ongoing modernization processes. Thus, you’ll discuss its interactions and interconnectedness with current economic, social, political, and religious patterns of change. Focusing principally on the transformations that have been taking place since the end of the 20th century will lead us to consider specifically the effects of the cultural globalization processes on Spanish popular culture, as much as its own participation and imbrication in them.
The migration fluxes, tourism, the global circulation of messages, symbols, images, and their accommodation within the Spanish territory stimulates the remaking of local, regional, and national habits, practices, and identities. Sometimes, these processes are concretized through defensive reactions, communitarian closure, and what some historians and anthropologists have called the “invention” of tradition. Other observable trends point to the articulation of native traditions and cultural practices with foreign cultural creations and transnational trends. Such interesting cross-cultural dynamics of hybridism, syncretism, and bricolage will be assessed and discussed during the course. For instance, one example of the articulation of the local and the global will be analyzed in our mandatory off-site activity in the city center of Madrid exploring places, commerces, businesses, interaction spaces, and so on, to comparatively analyze through ethnographic fieldwork two things that look similar but are different. This practice will be an exercise in small groups of two or three for the evaluation. For the final exercise, you will make an autoethnography about your experience living in Madrid or in Spain.
As a result, you will be able to critically evaluate the nuances of stereotypical discourses and easy generalizations about Spanish eating and leisure habits, lifestyles, and the normal everyday things in Spain that are the basis of Spanish Pop Culture.
Semesters: Fall, Spring