By Catherine Davies and Rory O’Bryen
To describe a language such as Spanish as ‘transnational’ is stating the obvious. Today Spanish is the official language, de jure or de facto, of 21 countries. So why this title and what makes this book different from the many others focusing on global Spanishes? First of all, the book takes a long view by considering the idea of a ‘transnational’ Spanish long before the nineteenth-century invention of the nation-state. Second, in doing so, it makes strong connections between distinct and often disconnected areas of study in this extensive field of knowledge.
Reading about the development and spread of the language we know today as Spanish takes us on a journey from the Roman Empire, the Islamic caliphates, the European Habsburg and Bourbon Empires, the advent of nationalism in Europe, the political independence of the Americas, and the creation of the modern Spanish-speaking nation-states, through to our own globalised world of migrant populations, diasporas and digital communication. It’s an exciting journey, a roller-coaster difficult to pack into one single volume. But read from cover to cover this book will give you an overview of the rich territory available to students for further exploration. Once you have grasped an understanding of the large-scale lie of the land, no matter how incomplete, tentative and invented this might be, you may then wish to concentrate on the small-scale details of the particular. To help you, like all the books in this series, Transnational Spanish Studies is divided into four sections (Language, Temporalities, Spatialities and Subjectivities), an Introduction and 12 individual chapters which present specific case studies. The chapters focus on the contact between Spanish and other languages such as Arabic and Quechua, the global scope of Hispanic cultures since the sixteenth-century and the making of the modern world, contemporary Hispanophone cultures in the Americas (consumerism, social media, artefacts, film, paintings and literature) and the ways in which individuals, who use and shape the language, express their sense of gender, race and class identities in written and visual culture.
The book will flag up huge gaps in our knowledge and the constant need to revisit accepted interpretations. Above all, it emphasises the fact that a language is inseparable from the cultures in which it is embedded, that our understandings are always liable to be contested, and that a language is never static but ever-changing, constantly on the move, reshaped and repositioned according to the situations and circumstances of the people who use it. Spanish, once the language of oppressed peasants and persecuted Christians, became the language of regal and imperial power, colonial control and even genocide. Today it is the language of global communication, pop lyrics and telenovelas in constant tension with English, a rival global language. This has resulted in the emergence of a new vernacular, ‘Spanglish’, a possible future language in its own right. The impact of the Spanish-speaking American and Caribbean migrant communities in the USA is immense. Today there are 64 million Spanish speakers in the USA, making the USA the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world after Mexico.
The book will also make apparent the deficiencies of the labels often attributed to the study of the Hispanophone world and the many languages and cultures connected with it. Due to its geographical breadth and historical complexity, ‘Hispanic’ studies has always been an atypical discipline within Modern Languages, variously housed under ‘Iberian’, ‘Spanish and Spanish American’, ‘Spanish and Latin American’ studies, and internally distributed between ‘Peninsularists’, ‘Latin Americanists’, ‘Golden Age specialists’, ‘Arabists’ and so on. The recent transnational ‘turn’ has further unsettled these divisions, prompting engagements with the ‘supranational’ and ‘trans-imperial’ dimensions of the different Hispanophone cultures. At the same time, however, it could be argued that the new term ‘Transnational Spanish Studies’ makes an attempt to encompass these distinct areas of study under one heading and for this reason should be welcomed. ‘Transnational’, in its broadest sense, describes the languages and cultures of Spain (including Catalonia, Galicia, the Basque country and sometimes Portugal), Spanish America (North, Central and South America, parts of the USA and the Caribbean), the Spanish and Spanish-American global diasporas, and sometimes Islamic Al Andalus and pre-Colombian America.
We hope this book will demonstrate the extent to which the development of Spanish-language cultural products and practices, inseparable from their historical and political contexts, are and have always been translingual and transnational and as such have supplied much of the foundation of western modernity and globalization. The labels Hispanic/Spanish/Iberian, and Spanish/Latin America Studies will continue to be challenged by scholars, but this kind of fuzziness is something to be celebrated. Students should not be afraid to cross borders, even if it means honing skills in several languages and working through translations. We hope that reading this book will entice you to travel widely, to be curious, to enquire and to make your own contribution to our collective knowledge of such an exciting, multifarious field of study.
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