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Oral History Society

MOVING FEELINGS: NATIONALISM, FEMINISM AND THE EMOTIONS OF POLITICS


Author(s): Carrie Hamilton
Source: Oral History, Vol. 38, No. 2, EMOTIONS (AUTUMN 2010), pp. 85-94
Published by: Oral History Society
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/25802193
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MOVING FEELINGS:
NATIONALISM,
FEMINISM AND THE
EMOTIONS OF POLITICS
by Carrie Hamilton
This article explores how, in interviews with women involved in nationalist and ABSTRACT
feminist politics in the Basque country, different political movements are asso- ?
ciated with different emotions. In so doing, it draws on recent cultural theories KEYWORDS:
of emotions as well as the history of emotions. The article looks at how certain feminism,
emotions become attached to a specific political movement while other feel nationalism,
activism,
ings move between them, becoming associated with a given political cause or emotions,
idea at a particular moment in the narrator's life story. It argues that these politics, history
emotional attachments and moving feelings are expressive of narrators' percep
tions of changes in wider social values associated with nationalism and femi
nism throughout the period studied, as well as of the difficulties expressed by
narrators in combining and sustaining multiple political commitments. As such,
they are an important aspect of the history of political activism.

The kind of activism of people in the nation What does it mean to identify some movements
alist left was an activism more from the as 'emotional' and others as more 'rational'?
heart. More of feelings. They began with feel Why are some political groups seemingly asso
ings, and the rationalising went from there.1 ciated with certain feelings while others evoke
different sets of emotions? And what can histo
It's much more difficult to explain women's rians, and oral historians in particular, add to
oppression, because it goes to your gut, the expanding literature on the emotions of poli
while the national and the social are more tics?
rational ...2 These are some of the questions that have
arisen in the course of my analysis of oral history
Anyone who has been committed to a political interviews I conducted in the mid 1990s with
cause, or has studied the history of a political women active in the radical Basque nationalist
movement, will be familiar with the intense and movement from the mid 1960s to the early
often mixed emotions that can arise from polit 1980s.4 These interviewees had either been
ical activism.3 Indeed, scholars of social move directly involved in or supported ETA (Euskadi
ments are increasingly interested in the roles ta Askatasuna, 'Land and Freedom'), the armed
played by emotion in generating and under Basque independence organisation founded in
standing political activism.3 But are some polit 1959 during the Franco dictatorship. The inter
ical organisations more 'emotional' than others? view excerpts I analyse in this article are taken

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from a number of interviews in which narrators scripts to indicate non-verbal expressions and
reflect upon the relationship between national incorporating them into their analyses. To date
ist and feminist politics, and in particular what however, there has been relatively little discus
they perceive as the compatibilities and clashes sion of methodological, theoretical and ethical
between these two political movements. My aim issues involved in analysing emotions in oral
here is not to identify the 'real feelings' of the history interviews. In this article, therefore, I
individual narrators, but rather to investigate borrow from a number of existing studies of
their claims that nationalism and feminism emotion in history and cultural theory in order
evoked different emotions in themselves and in to frame one possible approach to studying
others. I am especially interested in looking at emotions in oral history.
how certain emotions become attached to a
specific political movement while other feelings EMOTIONAL COMMUNITIES AND
move between them, becoming associated with SYSTEMS OF FEEUNGS
a given political cause or idea at a particular If an individual oral history interview may
moment in the narrator's life story. It is my provide valuable evidence about the emotions
contention that these emotional attachments of a particular narrator in relation to her past,
and moving feelings are expressive of narrators' comparing and contrasting a wider set of inter
perceptions of changes in wider social values views can be revealing of emotions shared
associated with nationalism and feminism within a particular collective, as well as the
throughout the period studied, as well as of the conflicting feelings within that same social
difficulties expressed by narrators in combining group. I have found particularly useful Barbara
and sustaining multiple political commitments. Rosenwein's idea of 'emotional communities',
which she defines as units akin to social
ORAL HISTORY AND EMOTIONS communities (eg neighbourhoods, parliaments,
In proposing to look at the emotions associated guilds, etc). The study of the history of
with nationalism and feminism I am aware of emotional communities differs from that of
the multiple challenges in writing a history of social history in that:
emotions. Most obvious is the dual problem of
evidence and authenticity. As oral historians we ... the researcher looking at them seeks
are well aware of the suspicions expressed by above all to uncover systems of feeling: what
documentary historians regarding the 'subjec these communities (and the individuals
tive' nature of oral history. There is no need here within them) define and assess as valuable
to rehearse the familiar debates over the nature or harmful to them; the evaluations they
and legitimacy of oral history evidence. Yet even make about others' emotions; the nature of
as some scholars remain sceptical or dismissive the affective bonds between people that they
of our methodologies and sources, over the past recognise; and the modes of emotional
few decades oral historians have both refined expression that they expect, encourage,
our methodologies and created a rich evidence tolerate, and deplore.5
based and theoretical literature around what for
others may constitute the central weakness of While a certain 'system of feeling' may have
our sources: the complexity of human memory defined or dominated a particular period, insti
and its relationship to history. tution or geographical area in the past, Rosen
As with the study of memory, oral history wein proposes that historically people have
would seem to have a privileged relationship to moved in and out of different emotional
the history of emotions. As a methodology communities, 'adjusting their emotional displays
defined by the inter-subjective and personal and their judgments of weal and woe (with
(though also necessarily professional) relation greater and lesser degrees of success to these
ship between interviewer and narrator, one that different environments)'.6 Rosenwein's model of
requires the establishment of a mutual rapport, 'emotional communities' is especially valuable, I
oral history has always, on some level at least, believe, for the study of a political movement
been about feelings. Moreover, because inter such as radical Basque nationalism, which
views contain not only a narrator's words but historically has existed in tension and indeed
also changes in the pace and tone of her voice, conflict with other social and political commu
facial expressions, gestures, non-verbal sounds nities. Moreover, the idea of competing systems
such as laughter and crying, as well as silences, of feelings allows one to examine the conflicting
oral history sources offer a potentially wider emotional values inside communities. Again, as
range of emotional evidence than most written Rosenwein notes:
sources. Indeed, many oral historians have paid
attention to these differing expressions in the ... not only does every society call forth,
interview, making notes in their written tran shape, constrain, and express emotions

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differently, but even within the same society the opportunity for the expression of diverse
contradictory values and models, not to emotions: anger at the state and security forces;
mention deviant individuals, find their sadness at the absence of dead or imprisoned
place.7 community members; affection for Basque
symbols and traditions.10
In the following section I will look briefly at Oral history interviews provide further exam
the idea of radical Basque nationalism as an ples of the collective emotions associated with
'emotional community', drawing on my oral certain nationalist symbols and rituals. In one
history interviews in addition to written docu striking example from my own interviews
ments and secondary sources, identifying certain several narrators told similar stories about the
dominant modes of feeling within that commu first time they had caught a glimpse of the
nity and how some of these changed between outlawed Basque flag, the ikurriha, as children
the 1960s and 1980s. What I propose is a very or teenagers during the Franco dictatorship
basic outline of the feelings valued and (1939-75).11 The awe and excitement evoked by
promoted within radical nationalism; a more the memories - indicated by animated voice
complete and nuanced history of radical nation tones, expressions of pleasure and rapid physical
alist emotions would require a much more thor gestures - were still apparent at the time of the
ough investigation. Nonetheless, by highlighting interviews in the 1990s, thirty years or more
some key aspects of the radical nationalist after the events recounted. It is as if the ikurriha
'system of feelings' I hope to provide a back itself - what I have called elsewhere, following
ground for the ensuing discussion about the Anne McClintock, a 'national fetish object'12 -
different emotions associated in narrators' had been endowed with certain collective feel
minds with nationalism and feminism. ings, so that the memory of the object itself
conjured sentiments experienced decades
RADICAL BASQUE NATIONALISM AS before.13
AN EMOTIONAL COMMUNITY If interviews can highlight emotions associ
A common criticism of Basque nationalism - by ated with particular aspects of activism, they are
academics, journalists and politicians alike - is also valuable in outlining the wider 'system of
that it privileges emotional appeal above ratio feelings' within radical nationalism - that is, the
nal political analysis. Although based on an emotional values of that community - and how
overly simple distinction between 'emotional' these changed over time. Interviews can affirm
nationalism and 'rational' political movements or add detail to these wider emotional values.
such as liberalism and socialism, condemnation But equally importantly, they can indicate
such as this actually underscores the political tensions between different sets of emotions, as
character of emotion and the importance of feel well as conflicts between the standards of the
ings to our understandings of political move community and individual emotional experi
ments. In fact, in most studies of ETA the ences and expressions. Again, let me give some
development of the organisation and especially examples from my own research. Interviews
its commitment to political violence are with women formerly active in ETA and other
explained in part with reference to emotional radical nationalist organisations suggest that a
factors, even if these are often implicit or series of emotional standards applied to differ
presented in 'common sense' terms. For ent aspects of nationalist activism. One major
example, one of the standard historical expla theme was the importance of loyalty to family,
nations for the resurgence of Basque national friendship and community. This issue came up
ism in the 1950s and 1960s is the alienation of time and again in reference to parents, children,
young (implicitly male) Basque workers in the family, neighbours, friends and, or course, ETA
face of renewed industrialisation and proletari members, whether personally known or not.
anisation, a process that has sometimes been Almost all the narrators emphasised the attach
labelled 'traumatic'.8 Additionally, academic ment to and affection they and others felt for
analyses of interviews with former members of imprisoned ETA members and the importance
ETA stress both the 'negative' emotions (espe of this sentiment in sustaining their commitment
cially hatred of all things 'Spanish') and the to ETA and to the use of political violence. A
'positive' (eg attachments to family, community second, related, topic was a strong sense of
and friends) feelings that have motivated gener justice and solidarity with 'the weak'. Thus, for
ations of armed activists.9 Finally, studies of example, a few narrators made a link between
radical nationalist rituals stress the ways in their Catholic upbringings and their enduring
which activities such as funerals, demonstra commitment to social justice, long after they had
tions and tributes to ETA 'martyrs' work to abandoned the Church. A third theme was the
consolidate affective ties within the community. importance of emotional restraint, especially in
Public political demonstrations in particular are relation to participation in and support for polit

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ical violence. One narrator, for example, claimed tended to chose other roles instead of, or in
to be dismayed by people who expressed joy or addition to, motherhood.
satisfaction at the news of an ETA action, But written sources, especially newspaper
describing such manifestations as 'vulgar'. reports, reveal some telling cases of the conse
Another noted that in the 1960s male ETA quences for women who did not follow commu
leaders had warned fellow activists against nity standards with regard to maternal feelings
mixed-sex relationships because women touched and expressions. As I have argued elsewhere,
a male activist's 'weak points'.15 although radical nationalist rhetoric presented
I want to stress that these examples do not maternity as natural, in practice nationalist
necessarily reveal the emotional experiences of motherhood was an ideological role that
the narrators or other ETA members or support demanded not only specific political allegiances,
ers. Instead they indicate some elements of but also proscribed emotional expression. Thus,
what, following William E. Reddy, we could call for example, mothers were expected to remain
the 'emotional regime'16 under which radical stoic in the face of the 'sacrifice' of their male
nationalism operated in its first two or three activist children but to express righteous anger
decades. As such, these examples can be used to against 'enemy' politicians and police. Mothers
gauge both the wider cultural influences on who questioned the political decisions of radical
radical nationalism and the historical changes in nationalist leaders, or supported children who
the community's emotional standards. The stress were considered to be 'traitors', could them
on social justice, like the emphasis on sexual selves become the objects of harsh criticism or
purity for early ETA members, reflects in part ostracism. Among the narrators who had left the
the middle-class Catholic nationalism ETA radical nationalist movement by the time of the
inherited from the older, mainstream Basque interviews, typically motivated by an ethical
Nationalist Party, founded in the late nineteenth decision to stop supporting ETA violence, some
century, as well as the central role of priests, had experienced similar treatment from former
seminaries and lay Catholic groups in shaping fellow activists, friends, neighbours and even
the resurgent nationalist movement in the 1960s family. These are examples of the kind of
and 1970s. In the memories of narrators, by the 'punishments' that, according to Reddy, are
1970s and 1980s there was little talk of chastity sometimes meted out to those who do not make
and more of activist couples and even casual the required 'normative utterances' required by
sexual liaisons between male and female mili certain 'emotional regimes'.18 The fact that indi
tants. The ideal of the emotionally controlled vidual actors did not necessarily subscribe to all
armed activist persisted, however, and as more aspects of a given 'emotional regime' bears out
and more women entered the organisation this Rosenwein's observation above that 'even within
emotional burden was increasingly shifted onto the same society contradictory values and
them. Several narrators noted that since women models, not to mention deviant individuals, find
were a small minority in ETA they had to 'prove their place'.19 It also reminds us that the exis
themselves' not only through their actions but tence of a dominant 'emotional regime' does not
also through a show of fortitude and emotional proscribe agency on the part of different actors.20
calm in the face of danger and committing acts Female activists' remembered feelings towards
of murder and injury. nationalism and feminism are further evidence
of the complex relationship between systems of
THE GENDER POLITICS OF EMOTIONAL feelings and particular emotions, between the
COMMUNITY emotional regime of radical nationalism and the
If the radical nationalist 'emotional community' agency of individual activists.
was shaped by class and religion, therefore, it
was also fundamentally gendered. In practice, MOVING FEELINGS
the emotional labour of holding together family The principal aim of my research was to
and community, especially in the face of exile, examine the different roles of women in the
police persecution, imprisonment and death, fell history of radical nationalism from the found
largely to women and especially to the mothers ing of ETA in 1959 to the early 1980s, with a
and partners of ETA activists and prisoners. The focus on those who had been directly active in
interviews as a whole give a positive assessment ETA or had participated in the radical national
of these 'traditional' female roles, even if there ist feminist movement which arose alongside a
is a marked generational difference between larger women's movement in the Basque
women born between the mid 1940s and mid country and Spain following the death of Franco
1950s, who tended to identify closely with the in 1975. I therefore asked my narrators a
ideal of the emotionally strong Basque mother number of questions about the history of femi
figure, and younger women born after that nism inside ETA and other radical nationalist
period, who came of age during the 1960s and organisations, including trade unions, political

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parties and prisoners' rights groups. A common uncle had been arrested (...) but they
theme soon emerged, one that confirmed weren't interested in finding out, looking
reports I had read in written sources such as into things, learning.24
community newspapers and magazines:
although from the late 1960s onwards radical As I noted above, it is commonplace in
nationalist rhetoric increasingly combined tradi studies of radical nationalism to claim that ETA
tionalist praise for women's roles as mothers members had little concern for sophisticated
with a celebration of women's equality or liber political debate and that the organisation's polit
ation, in practice feminism was regarded as a ical analysis was impoverished in contrast to
secondary political aim and even a distraction that of other political movements, most notably
from nationalism. This dilemma and its politi socialist organisations. But what interests me
cal and emotional fallout for narrators were still here is less a critique of radical nationalism's
perceptible at the time of the interviews in the presumed intellectual deficiency than a consid
mid 1990s. One of the explanations for the eration of how the conception of nationalism as
perceived conflict of interest between national a movement associated with the everyday, the
ism and feminism was the problem of combin emotional and the intimate made it seem incom
ing 'intellectual' or 'rational' politics with an patible with supposedly more 'theoretical' move
activism motivated by emotions. The interview ments, including feminism. In the interviews this
excerpts presented below provide an interesting apparent contrast is expressed through the
variation on Rosenwein's theme of competing recurring metaphor of the heart:
feelings within 'emotional communities': in the
narrators' words particular emotions, some The kind of activism of people in the nation
times associated metaphorically with different alist left was an activism more from the
parts of the body, are used to depict competing heart. More of feelings. They began with feel
allegiances to nationalism and feminism. ings, and the rationalising went from there.25
In several of the interviews feminism is inter
preted primarily as an intellectual concept. One Why is the activism in the radical nationalist
narrator, for instance, recalled that the first time left so different?
she heard talk of feminism was during a discus
sion organised by young activists in the late The people who start to get involved, get
1960s; she describes the views presented as involved not from the head, but from the
'very interesting', 'new' and 'quite theoretical'.21 heart.26
A different narrator, when asked why she
thought feminism had had a mixed response In everyday speech, to act or speak 'from the
among ETA members and supporters a decade heart' denotes sincerity and authenticity, even
later, in the late 1970s, recalled her visits to innocence and simplicity (the above excerpts are
exiled friends and comrades in the French translated from Castilian Spanish, but the same
Basque country during that period: distinction holds in the original). In psychoana
lytic terms, Jacqueline Rose has written (with
In the ETA I knew in 78 and 79 there were reference to a different zone of conflict, South
people who had taken up arms and hadn't Africa) that 'we use the heart as metaphor
had any kind of ideological awakening. Very whenever we want to indicate that part of the
little. They wanted a free Basque country, psyche where the mind's sovereignty is insuffi
independence. But to go from there to cient, where something other than the ego holds
considering the equality between women sway'.27 As far as the language of politics goes,
and men, even socialism ...22 Rose suggests, the heart, along with blood,
represents that site of ownership that is true, ie
A third woman likewise remembered non-metaphoric.28
encountering relatively few men in and around In terms of identity politics, therefore, 'the
ETA in the 1970s who had developed a political heart' represents a supposedly true or incon
consciousness through reading and studying, or testable identity. Nationalists - and the Basque
who were interested in debating politics. case is hardly unique here - frequently claim
Explaining why she believed it was difficult to that national or ethnic identity29 constitutes the
teach most men in ETA about feminism she basic individual and collective identity, the one
recalled: that perforce comes before all others (including
class, gender and sexuality). This claim is often
Many of the others were there because they made through the association of the nation with
were there. Because there had been a Burgos the family.30 But claims to authenticity via the
trial,23 because there was injustice, because family and the heart can be found in other polit
a friend was there, a relative, because an ical movements. Thus, in her study of Italian

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working-class memories of fascism, Luisa tions which in turn connect metaphorically to
Passerini identifies the 'theme of almost biolog ideas of love' and 'the heart'. Such associations
ical predestination in being Socialist'.31 She have proven useful not only in the construction
writes: of a hierarchy of identity which places national
ity at the top, but also in justifying the margin
In these instances the metaphor, par excel ality of identities and political causes deemed
lence is that of the heart because it expresses too 'intellectual', including socialism and femi
the inner self and an unchanging nature nism.
which endures with the full force of physical In her book the Cultural Politics of Emotion,
life even when silence is imposed.32 Sara Ahmed argues that emotions work in part
through the act of repetition, by 'sticking' to
In the examples provided by Rose and certain bodies, objects or ideas.34 Nations, for
Passerini, the heart is that part of the body asso example, are imagined as 'held together' through
ciated most strongly with life and resistance, the work of different emotions (love, hate,
with something that outside forces cannot shame, disgust) that 'stick' to different bodies.
quash. The heart represents the privileged site For Ahmed, emotions reside neither inside nor
of resistance, of commitment both to oneself outside the subject; nor are they properties
and to the collective as a whole. owned by certain individuals or groups that can
The heart is also, of course, a common then be passed on to or caught by others.35 In
metaphor ior feeling. People often speak of diffi her analysis, emotions are words and signs, but
cult personal choices as a struggle between they are also material: it is through their circu
'head and heart'. It was in these terms that one lation, moving between objects but also bring
narrator, who had become a peace activist by the ing them together, that emotions create
time of the interview, described her decision to boundaries, surfaces and bodies.
distance herself from radical nationalist politics, Ahmed's understanding of emotion is helpful
and particularly from ETA violence: to my work here because it disengages emotion
from the question of an individual's or group's
... that's where my heart is, that's where the 'real' feelings and focuses instead on the politi
people I most love are, they're extraordinary cal meanings and work of emotions. I agree with
people. And well, that's a bit where my heart Ahmed that emotions do not reside inside indi
is, but my head is telling me that maybe this viduals, waiting to be tapped or released; nor do
isn't what I want... I believe in this project, they belong innately to particular objects or
but the strategy being carried out, well I concepts. Like Ahmed, I am interested in how
can't take it on, I take it on less and less.33 emotions relate to bodies, though my emphasis
is different from hers. Whereas she reads the
To 'have one's heart in something' or to ways certain texts shape the surfaces of and
'speak from the heart' implies emotional interactions between bodies, through the
honesty. In particular, the heart is associated language of fear, hate, love, and so on, I am
with affection and love - emotions particularly interested in how certain emotions - or a
championed by nationalists (love of the land is supposed lack of emotion - are expressed in my
again often likened to love of family). In the oral interviews through their association with
above examples, nationalism as a political cause particular body parts, how these associations
is presented as dominant because it has a partic themselves move, and what these movements
ular hold on people's hearts, because it speaks mean.
to their most basic feelings. In these accounts As an example of this movement I want to
the 'emotional' nature of nationalism helps to cite an excerpt from a narrator who joined ETA
legitimate it as a political movement; in contrast, in the mid 1960s, became one of the organisa
in many academic analyses nationalism's appeal tion's first female armed activists and leaders,
to feelings is deemed as a shortcoming. But I spent several years in prison under Franco, and
would argue that nationalism is no more was later involved for many years in the radical
'emotional' than any other political movement. nationalist feminist movement. When I asked
The work of Rose and Passerini on South Africa her why over the decades there had been few
and Italy, respectively, remind us that the concrete changes with regard to women's issues
language of emotion is found in diverse political in the radical nationalist movement, she replied:
movements, historical periods and cultural
contexts. But nationalists, including supporters Me too, I'm a woman, it's much more diffi
of ETA, have been particularly successful in cult to explain women's oppression, because
legitimising and regenerating their cause within it goes to your gut, while the national and
their own community through rhetorical associ the social are more rational ... You talk
ations with the home, family and land, associa about culture, that you can't be how you

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are. You can't love the way you want to. You have had to contend: 'feminism as hostile and
can't sing, you don't have a language, people emotional (...) an extension of the already patho
understand. And you're a worker and you logical "emotionality" of femininity'. As Sara
have a low salary that leaves you just enough Ahmed argues, the challenge is not to overturn
to live or you're unemployed, they also this cliche with the claim that feminism is ratio
understand that. But talk about what inti nal, but to challenge the supposed contrast
mately - that's the deep part of humanity. between emotions and rational thought.37
And to get men to recognise that they're Emotions move not only between political
machista implies something so internal, it's causes and body parts, but also through time and
something so deep. That it's difficult for us through the interviews themselves.38 The first
to describe what that involves. And for them four excerpts above are reflections upon the past,
to accept it. You can be a brute at home and historical assessments of the problems feminists
be an abertzale (nationalist) worker. And be faced in incorporating their political aims into
an environmentalist at demos. You have a the radical nationalist movement in the early
way of life that represents a revolution. But days of feminism (ie the 1960s and 1970s). In
put yourself in the terrain of feminism. That contrast, the last excerpt above is a reflection on
means making a much more profound revo the moment of the interview in 1997, on the
lution. It's even about how you screw. Lots of reasons for and legacy of past failures and how
things start there. And it's difficult. That's they continued to impact upon the life of the
why it hasn't been resolved almost anywhere narrator and others (including, implicitly, the
in the world.36 female and feminist interviewer). Moreover,
whereas in the first four excerpts the narrators
The body language in this excerpt is explic are speaking of the challenges faced by others
itly visceral - feminism goes to the entrails or ('they') the last narrator uses more personal
guts, to the 'deep part of humanity'; it is some pronouns: I, we, you. She addresses the listener
thing that requires total liberation, a 'profound (interviewer/reader) directly, moving beyond the
revolution'. Like the heart, the gut and other boundaries of the national 'we' to a transnational
internal organs are associated with emotion, but audience, 'humanity'. Although the statement
they imply something messier, perhaps less pure, that feminism goes to the 'gut', to 'the deepest
certainly less romantic. If in common parlance part of humanity' may seem to contradict my
nationalism is associated with love, here femi claim that emotions do not reside inside people,
nism is 'about how you screw'. Thinking about I do not interpret these passages as claims that
feminism means (re) thinking sex. people 'own' their deepest feelings, but rather
In this and the above interview passages, that emotions move into, through and between
emotions move and attach themselves to differ individuals and collectives. The comment that
ent political ideas, and the meanings of different feminism requires a 'more profound revolution'
emotions change. These movements and changes both denotes a collective struggle and implies an
are made through reference to different body unspoken comparison. If the passage stresses the
parts. In contrast to the earlier excerpts, in which challenges of feminism for all of us (I, we, you,
nationalism was related to the heart and opposed humanity) it also marks out the borders and
to a more intellectual or theoretical feminism limits of nationalism.
(which in turn was associated implicitly with the
head), in this last passage feminism is contrasted REMEMBERED FEELINGS
to 'the national and the social' as forces that are It is not only that nationalism and feminism are
'more rational'. Even love (implicitly of the differentiated in some of the interviews through
nation or the 'people', although this ambiguity reference to rationality and emotion and differ
opens up other possible comparisons), quintes ent feelings; memories of the two movements
sentially linked to the heart and defined in oppo are also expressed emotively in very different
sition to the head, is here presented as something ways. In spite of their claims that nationalism
reasonable, something anyone can explain or was an 'emotional' movement, narrators typi
understand. Socialism or the question of cally recounted memories of nationalist activism
workers' rights, which in one of the previous rather matter-of-factly, even when recalling diffi
excerpts was aligned with feminism as a more cult or painful events - including experiences of
intellectual movement that required greater arrest and torture or the death of loved ones.
study than the more basic politics of nationalism, This may be because such stories correspond
here serves to reverse the equation: like nation closely to a collective radical nationalist rhetoric
alism, socialism is easy to comprehend, unlike of struggle, suffering and sacrifice and are there
feminism, which cannot be explained in rational fore unlikely to be spontaneous. I am not
terms. This is a familiar stereotype, one with suggesting that such memories are not painful
which feminists in different times and places for the speakers; rather, following Reddy, I argue

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that they are examples of the social nature of other words, feminism was simultaneously too
individual feelings and also of the dangers of political and not political enough.
reading what he calls 'emotives' either as
expressions or denials of 'true feeling', individ THE EMOTIONS OF POLITICS AND THE
ual or collective.39 POLITICS OF EMOTIONS
Memories of feminism, in contrast, were In the interviews explored above, former
expressed by several narrators, particularly those activists associate certain feelings with nation
who had been active in radical nationalist femi alism and feminism. Their language reflects the
nist groups in the 1970s and 1980s, with mixed challenges of combining different forms of polit
feelings. These ranged from joy at memories of ical activism and suggests that politics itself can
organising with other women, to anger and be experienced or expressed as an emotional
disappointment at the failure of radical nation conflict. Feminism and nationalism evoked for
alism to incorporate feminism as a legitimate narrators a variety of often conflicting feelings,
political project. These emotions were not only including love, affection, hope, anger and disap
expressed in words, but also through laughter, a pointment. These competing feelings not only
rise in the voice, or a flat refusal to continue varied among individuals, depending on factors
discussing the issue. Recalling a particular including class, gender, age and individual expe
action on International Women's Day when her riences; they also changed historically through
feminist group called on women to make a one the course of a lifetime and in the context of
day strike against housework, one narrator, who wider historical circumstances. While the
had also been a member of ETA in the early radical nationalist movement continued as an
1970s, said: active political force at the time of the inter
views in the mid 1990s, the feminist organisa
We had a really good time. I remember that tions in which several narrators had been active
in the feminist struggle I enjoyed myself, as had largely disintegrated, as had the energy and
well as being active, and in the political mobilisation of Basque and Spanish second
struggle I rarely enjoyed myself ...40 wave feminism, which was at its peak between
the mid 1970s and the mid 1980s. If I were to
But this narrator, like several others, also conduct further interviews today, in 2010, no
expressed exasperation at what she saw as the doubt nationalism and even feminism would
inability of some male - and female - national evoke different emotional responses among
ists to understand the importance of women's narrators than they did a decade ago.
separate organising. That the emotions associ Exploring the emotions associated with
ated with such frustrations were not yet forgot particular political movements, and how these
ten years later is expressed by an older narrator change and move across a range of history inter
who described the moment in which the radical views, we can use one of the strengths of oral
nationalist women's organisation was disbanded history, its subjectivity, without claiming to
under pressure from other groups in the early represent the narrators' 'true feelings'. As Reddy
1980s as 'lamentable'. Tt upsets me,' she added.41 argues, emotional sincerity is itself a historical
The range of emotions expressed in memo concept: 'Because of emotives' powerful effects
ries of feminism - intense happiness, on one and the likelihood that individuals will develop
hand, and anger and pain, on the other - may a set of "skills" in exploiting these effects, sincer
reflect a more fundamental tension within femi ity must be considered a specialised skill in its
nism itself, one that can be detected in the own right, that develops only in certain histori
second-wave feminist slogan 'the personal is cal and political settings'.43 If we accept that feel
political'.42 On one hand, feminism was ings, like memory, are not best measured in
presented as an explicitly public political project terms of accuracy or sincerity, the way is open
with a wide-ranging critique of social relations for oral historians to explore the historically
and institutions, from work and the economy to changing meanings of different emotions and
education and government; on the other, the their relationships to political movements and
second-wave emphasis on sexuality, reproduc other social and cultural phenomena.
tion, bodies and personal relationships took An approach to emotions as historical and
politics into the most intimate spheres of cultural, and therefore fundamentally social and
women's and men's lives. This tension is clear in collective, underscores the emotional element of
narrators' recollections of the ways feminism all forms of politics. As Rosenwein notes, the
was misunderstood by other women and men in study of the history of emotions has been
the radical nationalist movement. In some cases hindered in the past by its association with
feminists were accused of being too serious, of violent political movements (most notably
not knowing how to take a joke; in others, femi fascism). When emotions are interpreted as a
nism was dismissed as being just about sex. In dangerous force in politics, historians and other

92 ORAL HISTORY Autumn 2010

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scholars are more likely to place value on a not the centre of everything', and politics are
'rational' approach to politics.44 But following about more than feelings.45 The study of
Rosenwein's own model, we can move away emotions, in other words, cannot explain every
from the ahistorical idea that certain forms of thing about a political movement. But an histor
politics are 'more emotional' than others, or that ically-informed study of the 'system of feelings'
certain movements inevitably give rise to certain that circulate in a particular political movements
emotions, towards the study of political move can, in important ways, enhance our under
ments as historically changing 'emotional standings of that movement, including its rela
communities'. As Ahmed insists, 'emotions are tionship to other forms of politics.

NOTES than that found in most contemporary cultural and Interview conducted by author, Donostia-San
1 Interview with Narrator #4 (b 1949). social theories of emotion, including those cited Sebastian, June 1997.
Interview conducted by author, Bilbao, March in this study. See Williams, 'The Analysis of 16. William M. Reddy, The Navigation of
1996. Culture' in The Long Revolution, London: Penguin, Feeling: A Framework for the History of Emotions,
2. Interview with Narrator #7 (b 1946). 1965 (1961), pp 57-88. Quotation on p 64. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001,
Interview conducted by author, Donostia-San 6. Rosenwein, 2002, p 842. p 124.
Sebastian, February 1997. 7. Rosenwein, 2002, pp 842-3. Emphasis in 17. Hamilton, 2007.
3. See for example, Jeff Goodwin, James A. original. 18. Reddy, 2001, p 125.
Jasper, and Francesco Polletta (eds) Passionate 8. Francisco Letamendia Belunze, Historia del 19. Rosenwein, 2002, pp 842-3.
Politics: Emotions and Social Movements, nacionalismo vasco y de E. T.A, vol 1, San 20. Reddy claims that his model of emotions
Chicago and London: University of Chicago Sebastian: R&B Ediciones, 1994, p 317. 'restore(s) agency and historical significance to
Press, 2001; Jeff Goodwin and James M. Jasper 9* Fernando Reinares, Patriotos de lo muerie: the disaggregated self, (Reddy, 2001, p 111)
(eds) Rethinking Social Movements: Structure, quienes han militado en ETA y por que, Madrid: though his insistence on the historical construction
Meaning, and Emotion, Oxford: Rowman and Taurus, 2001. of the concept of emotional sincerity (see below)
Littlefield Publishers, 2004. 10. Begona Aretxaga, Los funerales en el may make him more ambivalent on the issue of
4. I conducted some twenty-five interviews in nacionalismo radical vasco, San Sebastian: agency. My thanks to Sheena Rolf for pointing
1996-97. The interviews lasted between one Baroja, 1988; Jesus Casquete, 'The Power of out these tensions within Reddy s work.
and two and a half hours and were conducted in Demonstrations,' Social Movement Studies, vol 21 Interview with narrator #3 (b 1947).
the life-story' format in which narrators recounted 5, no 1, 2006, pp 45-60. Other contemporary Interview conducted by author, Bilbao, May
their stories largely according to their own social movements demonstrate the power of 1997.
memories, in addition to guiding questions. For public funerals in consolidating political ties 22. Interview with Narrator #4 (b 1949).
details of the interview methodology see Carrie through the simultaneous expression of anger Interview conducted by author, Bilbao, March
Hamilton, Women and ETA: The Gender Politics against the state, mourning for the dead and 1996.
of Radical Basque Nationalism, Manchester: pride in group identity. See the example of the 23. This refers to the trial of sixteen accused ETA

Manchester University Press, 2007. 'Ashes' action carried out by AIDS activists in the members, including three women, at a military
5. Barbara H. Rosenwein, 'Worrying about United States in Deborah B. Gould, 'Passionate tribunal in the Spanish city of Burgos in 1970.
Emotions in History', American Historical Review, Political Processes: Bringing Emotions Back into Six of the male defendants were given death
vol 107, no 3, 2002, p 842. While the Study of Social Movements' in Goodwin and sentences (later commuted to life imprisonment)
Rosenwein s 'system of feelings' may sound Jasper, 2004, pp 155^50. and the rest lengthy jail terms. The Burgos trial
similar to Raymond Williams's 'structure of 11. The ikurrina, like other symbols of Basque was a key moment in the development of the
feeling', she does not cite him as a reference. national identity, was forbidden during the radical Basque nationalist movement as well as
Instead, Rosenwein's inspiration comes from Franco dictatorship (1939-1975). Consequently, the wider anti-Franco movement throughout
developments in the sociology and history of the flag became a particularly potent symbol of Spain, and also drew wide protest of the Franco
emotions since the 1960s, in particular the 'non resurgent nationalist identity in the 1960s, dictatorship from abroad.
hydraulic theories of emotions' (p 824), namely especially when displayed illegally in public. 24. Interview with Narrator #2 (b 1956).
the 'cognitive view' (p 836) and 'social 12. Hamilton, 2007, pp 67-9; Anne Interview conducted by author, Donostia-San
constructionism' (p 837). The 'hydraulic model', McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sebastian, June 1997.
in contrast, posits that 'the emotions are like great Sexuality in the Colonial Contest, New York: 25. Interview with Narrator #4 (b 1949).

liquids within each person, heaving and frothing, Routledge, 1995, pp 374-5. Interview conducted by author, Bilbao, March
eager to be let out. The model in fact largely 13. For a comparative example of rituals and
1996.
derives from medieval medical notions of the symbols as 'collective means of emotional 26. Interview with Narrator # 5 (b 1958).
humors.' (p 834). Rosenwein also draws on communication' in a political movement, see Interview conducted by author, Bilbao, February
William Reddy's idea of 'emotives' (see below). Colin Barker, 'Fear, Laughter, and Collective 1996.
Williams coined the term 'structure of feeling' to Power: The Making of Solidarity at the Lenin 27. Jacqueline Rose, States of Fantasy, Oxford:
describe the 'quite distinct sense of a particular Shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, August 1980' in Clarendon Press, 1994, p 39.
and native style' in a given historical period, past Goodwin, Jasper and Polletta, 2001, p 175. 28. Rose, 1994, p 41.
or present. A concept that could be usefully 14. Interview with Narrator #1 (b. 1945). 29. I am aware that these two are not

revisited by historians of emotion, 'structure of Interview conducted by author, Bilbao, April necessarily identical, though in the language of
feeling' nevertheless incorporates a much 1996. Basque nationalism ethnicity and nationality often
broader understanding of culture and society 15. Interview with Narrator #2 (b. 1956). overlap and merge. While all of the interview

Autumn 2010 ORAL HISTORY 93

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narrators identified strongly as Basque, many had 34. Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of 41. Interview with Narrator #7 (b 1946).
Spanish as well as (or instead of) Basque Emotion, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Interview conducted by author, Donostia-San
heritage, underscoring the extent to which 2004, pp 11-12. Sebastian, February 1997.
contemporary Basque identity is cultural and 35. Ahmed, 2004, pP9-10. 42. The feminist 'second wave' is historically
geographical. The single most important 'marker' 36. Interview with Narrator #7 (b 1946). associated with the radical social movements of

of Basqueness was identified as language, even Interview conducted by author, Donostia-San the late 1960s and 1970s. In the Basque country,
by those who were not fluent in the Basque Sebastian, February 1997. including Spain, an active women's movement
language euskera. 37. Ahmed, 2004, p 170. developed in the late 1970s, following the death
30. Hamilton, 2007. 38. For a discussion of how emotions move of the dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 and the

31. Luisa Passerini, Fascism in Popular Memory, through history and accumulate over time, see transition to liberal democracy.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987, Sara Ahmed, 'Affective Economies,' Social Text, 43. Reddy, 2001, p 107.
p24. 79, vol 22, no 2, Summer 2004, pp 1 19-20. 44. Rosenwein, 2002, pp 821-3.
32. Passerini, 1987, p 24. 39. Reddy, 2001, p 107. 45. Ahmed, 2004, pp 16, 202.
33. Interview with Narrator # 6 (b 1944). 40. Interview with Narrator #2 (b 1956).
Interview conducted by author, Bilbao, March Interview conducted by author, Donostia-San Address for correspondence Carrie Hamilton:
1996. Sebastian, June 1997. c.hamilton@roehampton.ac.uk

94 ORAL HISTORY Autumn 2010

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