Shattering Iberia

Cultural Responses to an Ongoing Crisis

March 4 and 5, 2014

Dwinelle 370

University of California,


Since the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble in 2008, Western countries have seen themselves immersed in a global financial crisis that continues today with unstoppable force. Unemployment rates have escalated to unprecedented levels throughout the Eurozone, leaving these two Iberian countries with dramatic unemployment statistics of 27% (52% for certain demographics). Unable to face the market and pay their loans and mortgages, many citizens are being forced to leave their houses turning eviction stories into an almost systematic narrative. European austerity measures designed to target the region’s unequal distribution of wealth and its external debt, have hit the Spanish and Portuguese economy with particular force, highlighting the weakness of their economic institutions and the inability of their governments to cope with an increasingly polarized society. Within this pessimistic atmosphere of escalating citizen distrust in governmental institutions, we are also witnessing the development of alternative means and forms of protest shaped within the consolidation of important collaborative networks based on new concepts of solidarity, self-management, social protest and cultural action.

Shattering Iberia: Cultural Responses to an Ongoing Crisis,
relates to the changing definition of the concept of “crisis” in today’s world, focusing on the transforming roles of symbolic production, and how our current state of political and economic chaos claims for a redefinition of the purpose and nature of art and literature. What do new ways of social protest mean in terms of artistic production? Are we witnessing the birth of new types of collaborative popular expression? What is the role of the artist in this situation? And the Government? How do popular practices of collaborative work change our understanding of intellectual property? How can legislation account for these changing practices? We intend to engage in conversations that will shed some light on the current state of cultural production in this context of crisis, as well as explore the ways in which groups such as the 15M movement in Spain, or Que se lixe a troika in Portugal, as well as other similar protest movements in the Peninsula and abroad, are working towards reshaping, not only civil society and its relationship to business and politics, but to the role of art and literature in contemporary Iberia.