International Conference "Arts and Models of Democracy in Post-Authoritarian Iberian Peninsula" | University of Huddersfield, 28-29 November 2019

Igor Contreras Zubillaga's picture
November 28, 2019 to November 29, 2019
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Film and Film History, Literature, Music and Music History, Spanish and Portuguese History / Studies

Arts and Models of Democracy in Post-Authoritarian Iberian Peninsula

University of Huddersfield

28-29 November 2019



Convenors: Dr Igor Contreras (University of Huddersfield), Dr Giulia Quaggio (University of Modena) 


The process of democratisation in Portugal and Spain originated from a similar socio-political context. Besides having an almost identical geographical context, two long authoritarian and military dictatorships shaped the two counties on the basis of a nationalist and deeply catholic identity. From the point of view of popular culture, both dictatorships promoted a disengaged culture, based on songs, football matches, bullfights and the stereotypes of Iberian folklore. In the early 1970s, the illiteracy rate and cultural practices indexes in both countries were still among the highest in Europe. Despite these similar starting conditions, the Portuguese transition to democracy was very different from that of Spain; whereas Portugal created a rupture with the previous institutional context through a military coup, in Spain the post-Franco democratisation was founded on negotiated reform. These two processes of transition to democracy in Portugal and Spain, although dissimilar from each other, led to new ways of both high and popular cultural expressions. As a result, the decade following the two dictatorships was characterised by significant and euphoric experiments in the fields of literature, visual and plastic arts, cinema and music. Scholars have paid scant attention to the ways in which artists thought and put into practice the very notion of democracy in these years. Democracy is a highly contested category, one that has been imagined in many different ways, and any particular realisation of which carries costs as well as benefits. According to the historian of democracy Pierre Rosanvallon (2008), the rise of a democracy entails both a promise and a problem for a society.

This two-day conference aims to innovatively question how artistic practices and institutions formed ways of imagining democracy and by what means arts and culture participate in the wider social struggle to define freedom and equality for the post-Estado Novo and post-Francoist period: how did artistic practices instantiate ideas of democracy in this context? Inversely, how did such democratic values inform artistic practice? How did Portuguese and Spanish artists and intellectuals negotiate between creative autonomy and social responsibility? And more broadly, what is the role of culture in a democracy?




Thursday 28 November 

Venue: Heritage Quay


9:30 – 9:45 Registration: Coffee, Tea and Pastries


9:45 – 10:00 Opening Remarks


10:00 – 11:05 Opening Keynote Speech

Professor Duncan Wheeler (University of Leeds): “Culture and the Spanish Transition”


11:05 – 11:15 Break


11:15 – 13:00 Writing, Politics and Survival of Censorship

Daniel Floquet (University of Porto): “Between Carnations: Political Writings of Maria Velho da Costa After 1974”

Ana Paula Ferreira (University of Minnesota): “Lídia Jorge’s Literary Probe of Democratic Community

Alícia Hernàndez Grande (Northwestern University): “The Transition on the (Judicial) Stage: Catalan Theatre, 1977-1978”


13:00 – 13:45 Lunch 


13:45 – 15:30 The Transition on Display: Audio-Visuals

Patricia Oliveira (University of Lisbon): “Democratic Transition into Question: Documentary Film in the Iberian Context”

David Justice (Oklahoma State University): “D is for Democracy: Barrio Sésamo,U.S. Soft Power, and Spanish Identity”

Vicente Rodríguez Ortega (University Carlos III Madrid): “The Alcàsser Case: Memory, Democracy and the Media”


15:30 – 15:50 Break 


15:50 – 17:20 Music and Models of Democracy

Manuel Figueira (King’s College): “Leftism in the Portuguese Transition Through the Music of José Mario Branco and GAC”

Igor Contreras Zubillaga (University of Huddersfield): “Group Music-Making as an Alternative Democracy in Post-Francoist Spain”

Carlos van Tongeren (The University of Manchester): “Flamenco, Memory and Urban Practices in the Spanish Transition”


17:30 Drinks at Rhubarb (41/45 Queensgate)


18:45 Dinner at Café Mandalay



Friday 29 November 

Venue: Heritage Quay


9:15 – 9:30 Coffee, Tea and Pastries


9:30 – 10:50 Institutional Culture

Leonor de Oliveira (NewUniversity of Lisbon/The Courtauld Institute of Art): “Artistic and Institutional Forms in Post-Revolutionary Portugal: Artistic Agency and the Creation of a New Museum of Modern Art”

Lola Visglerio Gómez (Autonomous University of Madrid): “The Contemporary Art Museum of Seville: Contemporary Art, Citizenship and Democracy in the Last Years of Francoism”


10:50 – 11:20 Break


11: 20 – 12:40 Counterculture 

Carlos Martos Ferrer (University of Alicante): “A Vision of Culture from Below and Its Mechanisms of Opposition to the Francoism”

Mónica Granell Toledo (University of Valencia): “A (Counter) cultural Chronicle of the Transition to Democracy in Spain (Ajoblanco, 1974-1980)”


12:40 – 13:40: Lunch


13:40 – 15:00 Disenchantment 

Giulia Quaggio (University of Modena): “Democracy and Fear: The Case of the Anti-NATO Murals in Spanish Neighbourhood”

Daniel Sánchez Bataller (University of Illinois at Chicago): “Santiago Sierra’s Critical Realism and the Phantom of National Catholicism in Spain”


15.00 – 15:30 Break


15.30 – 16:40 Closing Keynote Speech 

Professor Antonio Costa Pinto (ICS-University of Lisbon): “Rethinking the Legacies of Transitions to Democracy in Portugal and Spain”


16:40 – 17:00 Final Discussion


17:00 Trip to The Sportsman Beerhouse (1 Saint John's Road)



Contact Info: 

Dr Igor Contreras Zubillaga
British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Huddersfield
School of Music, Humanities and Media
Huddersfield, HD1 3DH