Nor Naiz, Gu Gara (Who I Am, We Are) is a series aiming to explore the meaning of Basque Identity around the world, both within Euskal Herria as well as in the diaspora. For an introduction to the series, look here, and for a list of the previous entries, look here.
On not seeing the forest for the trees
The study of the elusive and complex concept of identity, and particularly of that of migrants and their descendants, has attracted the attention of many scholars from a variety of disciplines. Common knowledge suggests that all individuals have their own unique sense of identity. Consequently, there might be as many identities as individuals. This might be the case for those who identify as Basque, in the homeland as well as in the diaspora. Our understanding of Basqueness is shaped, for instance, by our own life stories, socialization processes, socio-historical contexts, and ideological traditions. Indeed, there are as many ways to experience and express a single collective identity as the individuals that are part of such social group. However, this fact cannot force us to ignore the existence of collective identities such as of the Basque.
That is to say, in our world-spanning Basque forest, individual trees should not obstruct the vision of the forest, but, instead, they should enrich it. Paraphrasing a popular saying, it is not the forest that explains the trees, but the trees are the ones that give meaning to the forest; and even more, the roots of the trees are those that maintain alive the forest. The roots are, to a certain extent, our collective memory as Basques. In a sense, our collective memory and shared sense of being and belonging provide a solid guide to interpret our present world. Could we imagine ourselves without memory? Let´s think for a moment that we lose our memory; then, let´s ask ourselves who am I? Who are we?
Pedro J. Oiarzabal was born and raised in Bilbao and has spent much of his life between the Basque Country, Ireland and the United States. He holds a PhD in Basque Studies-Political Science from the University of Nevada, Reno, a MPhil in Economics and Social Sciences from Queen’s University of Belfast (N. Ireland), and BA in History from the University of Deusto (Bilbao). Currently, Oiarzabal is a Research Scholar on International Migration at the University of Deusto, Bilbao. His research examines diaspora creation and diaspora interaction with information and communication technologies as well as the meaning of identity in both homeland and diaspora realities, with particular emphasis on the Basque case. Among his publications are La Identidad Vasca en el Mundo (2005), A Candle in the Night: Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, 1967-2007 (2007), Gardeners of Identity: Basques in the San Francisco Bay Area (2009), and Diasporas in the New Media Age: Identity, Politics, and Community (2010).