Thursday, February 16, 2006

Barcelona!

I always find the relationship between international scientific/scholarly societies and their conference cities interesting. Generally, it seems that the host city is reduced to an incidental backdrop, preferably wrapped in tourist clich├ęs. Reality should be kept at arms lenght: luckily, modern convention centres and their associated hotels make this very possible. In fact, if you have ever been caught in one of these, you will know that escaping into something resembling a real city street is quite difficult. (In this, they of course resemble much of social theory and other scientific activity, so don't blame their designers too much...) This distancing is especially ironic when the scholarly society in question is the International Society of Political Psychology... They are hosting their 2005 annual conference in Barcelona this July. I am planning to attend this conference, so I have been searching both the conference website and the web more generally for information about Barcelona and the region of which it is the capital (I think), Catalunya. Predictably, the conference website, like most tourist websites, reduces the city and region to another charming part of the kaleidoscope that is steoretypical Spain - bullfighting, payella and olives. Meanwhile, back in the bullring, there are apparently some serious and interesting political tensions around Catalonya at the moment, about its regional autonomy vis-a-vis the Spanish state, about language rights, and about its "national" status. So how sucessfull do you think a conference on political psychology will be in ignoring such interesting events? My guess: very... Any Spanish (sic?) critical psychologists out there who could say something about these current debates and events, and their implications for understanding Spain, Europe, the world, and everything else?

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