Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Caroline Nagel


Nationalist sentiment has a long history in the Basque regions of northern Spain. Culturally separate from the dominant Castilian society, separatists have for many years advocated for an independent Basque state. Following democratic reforms under the Constitution of 1978, regional cultures and languages were explicitly recognized and protected in Spain. This allowed for the current set of language laws in the Autonomous Community of País Vasco in which Castilian Spanish and the Basque language of Euskara are held in equal status and recognition. Furthermore, Euskara has been recognized as a defining characteristic of Basque identity. The regional government has instituted a three-track education system in which students choose to be taught in varying ratios of Euskara and Castillian. This work explores ideas about language education and usage as it relates to the development of national identity in young people in the city of Bilbao. It shows that the everyday choices made about language in the region are complicated and not merely reflections of nationalist ideology. There are often pragmatic choices made reflecting economic realities or simple daily convenience. These basic trends though are further complicated by normal adolescent social negotiations. The language of Euskara is still an important identifier for individuals in the region, but there are now many perceived reasons for achieving fluency in it other than to make a political or cultural statement. These results illustrate a complicated picture of nationalism in the region and raise questions about its shifting focus and importance in future generations.

Included in

Geography Commons