Thursday, December 11, 2014

The study and learning of Catalan outside the region


With Franco’s victory, many intellectuals and scholars of Catalan went into exile and set-up centres aimed at maintaining the culture in many points of the world. It was a new impulse for the study and learning of Catalan which continues to this day. In 2000, the Ramon Llull Institute was created with the aim of promoting the Catalan language and culture abroad. Nowadays, the network of lecturers in Catalan reaches 107 universities in 29 countries over the five continents, with more than 5000 students registered on the courses.


Franco’s victory during the Civil War, and the constitution of the dictatorship, caused a multitudinous exile which affected all sectors of the populous, Catalan intellectuals and language scholars. In this way, at the same time as the Catalan language and culture were repressed in their own region, due to the initiatives of the exiled intellectuals, various cultural centres appeared all over the world, which were aimed at cultivating and maintaining the Catalan culture in spite of the adversity of the time. Cities like Paris, Perpignan, Mexico, Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile became, during this period, the Catalan cultural referents and represented a new impulse in the trajectory of the study and learning of Catalan outside its region, which still lasts to this day.

During the second half of the twentieth century different societies, which were normally tied to the university ambit, were created all over the world. These were aimed at the study of the Catalan language and culture. The principal activities of these societies were the redacting and publication of studies about various aspects of the Catalan language and culture and the organization of congresses and encounters. In 1954, the Oxford Anglo-Catalan Society was created which had, amongst its members, British and exiled Catalan scholars like Josep Maria Batista Roca, Joan Mascaró Fornés and Joan Gili Serra. In 1968, in the context of a discussion in Strasburg, the International Association of Catalan Language and Literature emerged which was officially founded in Cambridge in 1973.

Every three years the association organises an international debate about themes related to Catalan philology and publishes its acts; it also publishes the scientific magazine ‘Estudis de Llengua i Literatura Catalanes’ every semester and distributes amongst its members regular information about work sessions and publications on the theme. In 1978 the ‘Associazione Italiana di Studi Catalani’ was created in Italy, following the line initiated by the rest of European Catalan associations and, the same year, during the first ‘Col·loqui d’Estudis Catalans de Nord-amèrica’ [North-American Debate about Catalan Studies], the North American Catalan Society was also created. This entity takes on an important promotion task of Catalan culture in this country and, as well as organizing a triennial debate, it published the ‘Catalan Review: International Journal of Catalan Culture’. In 1983 the Deutsch-Katalanische Gesellschaft gathered for the first time in Karlsruhe, and in 1987 they held their inaugural reunion in Frankfurt-am-Main. In 1997, this association changed its name to Deutscher Katalanistenverband, although the Catalan equivalent of both names is the German-Catalan Association. The task of these entities has been recognised during the democratic era with awards like the Saint George’s Cross or the Ramon Llull Prize, and today they form part of the International Federation of Associations of Catalan, which is tied to the Ramon Llull Institute.

The Ramon Llull Institute is a consortium that was created in 2000 and which actually is formed by the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Government of the Balearic Islands, the Government of Andorra and other institutions. Its principal objective is the exterior promotion of the Catalan language and culture, ‘in all its modalities, subjects and means of expression, as well as its promotion and teaching outside the linguistic domain, taking into account its modalities and variants. The Institute has three differentiated areas: Creation, Literature and Thought, and Language and Universities’. The Ramon Llull Institute is an integrated member of the Ramon Llull Foundation, which is constituted by the Andorran Government, the Ramon Llull Institute, the General Council of the Eastern Pyrenees, Alguer and the Network of Valencian Cities, and its headquarters are in Andorra.

With regards to the projection of Catalan culture, the role of the Institute is structured around various axes. On the one hand, it centres its task around universities, be these in the Catalan speaking regions or abroad. In 2006, 7.000 students in more than 200 centres were receiving classes in Catalan language, literature and culture. Nowadays, the network of lecturers in Catalan reaches 107 universities in 29 countries on the five continents, with more than 5.000 students registered on the courses. Another of the activities linked to the university world is the support to cathedras or centres of Catalan studies, like the Centre of Catalan Studies of the Sorbonne University, the Research Centre in Catalan Studies of the Queen Mary University in London, the Joan Coromines Cathedra of Catalan Studies in the University of Chicago, the Cañada Blanch Centre of Spanish Contemporary History of the London School of Economics and the Catalan Research Centre of the Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt.

Out of the university ambit, the Institute also offers support to one hundred-and-fourteen Catalan Communities Abroad: these are private entities who aim to promote Catalonia outside the language’s linguistic domain and to support the Catalan community who live abroad.

Over the last few years, the Ramon Llull Institute has undertaken initiatives with a quite significant social and media impact, amongst which we must point out the presence of Catalonia at various international editorial fairs. In November 2004, a Book Fair was opened in Guadalajara (Mexico) which had Catalan culture as its star guest. Three years later, the international projection of Catalan culture had reached one of the most important pinnacles of its history when it was the guest culture at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which is the most important one in the world in this field.

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