The main objective of our research group is to reveal the experience of modern society in Spain from 1870 to 1990 and its relevance in the construction of gender, class, and national identities. These identities are not interpreted as natural objects, but as being subject to construction by human beings, all of which makes them an historical object of study. The epistemological approach is based on a critical review of the linguistic paradigm and rests on the concepts of memory, identity, body, and emotions as fundamental research tools.
In our view and in Weberian terms, modernity, or the modern, is an issue relating above all to the phenomena of rationalization and disenchantment experienced by contemporary society. Their effects can be observed in different social facets, from state organization to religious behaviours, through the makeup of human subjectivity itself. The main aim of our work is to determine the essence of modernity through the lens of the experience of subjects. But that element, experience, is very elusive and we can only access it through some of its effects.
The main hypothesis put forward here is that the processes of demystification and secularization destabilize the social world, since they prevent all its components, from work, the economy, and society to femininity and sexuality, from appearing to be linked to a stable definition, which favours change and facilitates the action of those forces that propose to transform reality – but without this making it possible to deduce a linear and non-contradictory process. The processes of secularization are mutually supportive. Namely, they have a transitive nature between very distant spheres, affecting one another reciprocally (changes in medicine or biology have an impact on national construction, for instance). They operate as parts of a structure, of a decentralized network, in which any change in one part has repercussions for the whole. Hence, to pursue a conception of social change established in terms of causality would be irrelevant, which leads us to reject a basic pillar of social history and present our work as a contribution to the debate between social and post-social history which has been a constant in contemporary historiography.
The social change and debate that this provokes revolves around what we have called “speculative bodies”: representations of bodies around which social debate is organized, where “speculative” refers to the type of representation, to the mirror effect that they establish with the real and also to the fact that they are constituted in the domain in which social struggle is produced. These bodies are domains for dialogue, even though this is not limited to the action of discourses, notwithstanding the fact that these intervene very actively and, considering that they are crystallizations of experiences, stand out for their capacity to mobilize emotions.
Our group is currently structured around the research project, “La construcción histórica de la identidad y de la diferencia en el País Vasco: género, clase y nacionalidad (1876-1976) [The historical construction of identity and difference in the Basque Country: gender, class, and nationality (1876-1976)],” funded by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science (2002-2005), as well as undertaking a MICINN project (COD: HAR2016-78223-C2-1-P) with an end date in 2019, its consolidation having culminated in its recognition by the UPV/EHU as a university research group since 2008.
Our group’s multidisciplinary approach to historical research has given rise to a number of collaboration agreements with private institutions, including one with the Ramón Rubial Foundation (renewable on a yearly basis since 2008).The research line, “Desarrollo de estudios, investigaciones y acciones de divulgación para la historia de la cultura y memoria del movimiento socialista en el País Vasco [Developing studies, research and actions for disseminating the history of the culture and memory of the socialist movement in the Basque Country]”, and the creation of the Centro Documental del Socialismo Vasco [Basque Socialism Documentation Centre] (http://www.ramonrubial.net/), in addition to preserving the history and memory of Ramón Rubial, are just some of the fruits of this collaboration. Furthermore, the group has supported the creation of the AHOA, Ahozko Historiaren Artxiboa, Archive of Oral History of the Basque Country (http://www.ahoaweb.org/).