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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Globalization and Its Discontents: Immigration and Identity in Contemporary Spanish Film

Linda Materna, Barry Seldes.

Migrations of peoples have accelerated
and expanded under the oft-cited forces
of globalization, altering often
radically and even violently, world-wide
political, economic, social and cultural
paradigms. Within Spain, immigration has
increased dramatically since the 1980s
and especially in the 1990s--primarily
from Latin America, Muslim Africa and
Eastern Europe. It is transforming the
country from a dominant monoculturalism
to a new emergent multiculturalism that,
along with powerful regional
nationalisms, has destabilized and
challenged the Spanish national identity.
Despite the demand for cheap labor,
large numbers of poorly paid immigrants,
particularly in the construction and
agriculture industries, are forced to
remain illegal due to the new regressive
Ley de Extranjería, passed under the
conservative Partido Popular of Manuel
Aznar in December of 2000. In addition,
increasing racial, linguistic and
cultural diversity combined with
high-unemployment rates and fierce
competition for jobs produce inevitable
social conflict and political backlash.
Film and literature increasingly
depict the plight of immigrants and
challenge Spaniards to examine their
historically exclusionary, unified and
essentialist identity. In this
presentation, my co-presenter Dr.
Barry Seldes and I will examine
globalization, immigration and their
consequences. Dr. Seldes will provide a
model of global political-economic
changes and national cultural resistances
with special attention to contemporary
Spain. I in turn will provide an
overview of cinematic depictions of such
cultural resistances with a focus on
African and Latin American immigrants in
such films as "Las cartas de Alou" (1990;
Montxo Armendáriz), "Bwana" (1996; Imanol
Uribe), and "Poniente" (2002; Chus
Gutiérrez), which depict the African
experience, and "Cosas que dejé en La
Habana" (1997; Manuel Gutiérrez-Aragón)
and "Flores de otro mundo" (1999; Iciar
Bollaín), which focus on Latin American


Linda Materna  (United States)
Professor of Spanish
Department of Foreign Languages & Literatures
Rider University

Dr. Materna teaches Spanish
language and literature,
with a specialization in
modern and contemporary
Spanish theater and film. Her
publications include studies
on Spanish Romantic theater,
the theater of the Generation
of 1927, contemporary theater
and the films of Almodovar.
She is currently writing a
monograph on the playwright
Andres Ruiz.

Barry Seldes  (United States)
Department of Political Science
Rider University

Dr. Barry Seldes teaches
cultural politics and
political theory at Rider
University in New Jersey, USA.
He has written on Soviet
Constructivism, US economic
policy, Kafka, Wittgenstein,
Unamuno, the Spanish Civil
War and contemporary Spanish
cultural politics. He is
currently working on a study
of music and politics, with
special attention to the
debates between proponents
of positions on tonality
adopted by Adorno and
Bernstein over

  • Globalization
  • Immigration
  • Cultural Identity
  • Contemporary Spanish Cinema

(30 min Conference Paper, English)