College of Communication Master of Arts Theses

Date of Award

Summer 9-6-2012

Degree Type


First Advisor

Michaela Winchatz


The goal for my master’s thesis is to understand how the working class women of Catalunya (specifically women that lived in the small farming villages in the region of Les Garrigues),contributed to the survival of Catalan. Catalunya is an autonomous region of Spain that endured more than three decades of the Francisco Franco dictatorship (1934-1975) that attempted to eradicate the Catalan language and culture. As stated by Everly (2003): “[…] the regional exile of Catalunya from the rest of Spain acts as a backdrop provoking women to go a step further and experiment with their own sense of gender separation within their particular culture” (p. 15). In other words, not only did Catalan women experience the oppressive effects of the patriarchal Spanish culture, but they also grappled with their Catalan identity under the nation-state ideology where Catalunya was disavowed a voice. Moreover, the significance women played in the survival of the Catalan language cannot be understated: “[…] the language became relegated to secretive hidden corners of the home [during the Franco dictatorship], to the traditionally domestic maternal feminine sphere; in effect, Catalan language was exiled from Catalunya yet survived in the feminine space of the home” (p. 21). Current research regarding Catalan, women, nationalism and feminism uses non ethnographic methods. Everly (2003) examined the writings of four influential Catalan women writers who wrote and published in exile during the Franco dictatorship. Nash (1996) reviewed early 20th century Spanish history to understand the role feminism played in Catalunya with respect to Catalan nationalism. Radcliff (2002) reviewed the housewives’ associations that formed across Spain in the 1960s and 1970s revealing the complexity of the various women’s movement ideologies at play. Previous studies examined at a distance and have not taken an ethnographic approach to gaining a deep cultural understanding of the interplay between the Catalan language, nationalism and feminism. My study uses an ethnographic method to understanding and hearing the voices of the Catalan women that spoke in the private feminine sphere against Franco’s attempts to eradicate the Catalan language. Nine semi-structured ethnographic interviews were conducted in the pueblos of Les Borges Blanques and Juneda. Using the Cultural Discourse Analysis framework, as understood by Carbaugh (2007), I extracted the cultural elements of the communicative acts from the transcribed interview data. The analysis resulted in four major research findings. First, the struggle for gender equality is embedded in gendered labor and gendered spaces (e.g. private and private-public spaces). Second, Catalan norms of communication are complexly tied up in identity, relationships and dwelling. Third, the various levels of proficiency in the Catalan language require that Catalan communication norms flex to accommodate all Catalan native habitants as legitimate Catalan interlocutors. And finally, Catalan mothers perceive their communicative behavior as essential to maintaining the Catalan language and culture. Ultimately, the voices of the working class women that continued to speak Catalan in the private and private-public sphere during the Franco dictatorship remain undiscovered at large. This research cracks open an academic door to reveal complex female communicative behavior under the Franco regime in the pueblos of Les Borges Blanques and Juneda. These unknowingly feminist voices begin to unravel the intersectionality of language, identity and nationalism and show how these elements played out on the bodies of Catalan women, where the nation-body of the autonomous region of Catalunya still survives today on account of flexible Catalan communication norms and Catalan women resisting patriarchal authority.

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