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A Return to 'Memory and Conflict'  

Students Explore the Basque Country, Spain

Dr. Manojlovic and students of 2016's Basque Study Tour pose outside the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

Last spring, Dr. Borislava Manojlovic, Director of Research Projects, led a group of students to explore the Basque Country, Spain in an academic study tour; introducing the students to actors and institutions that address the region's contentious past. This week, Dr. Manojlovic returns to the Basque Country with a new cohort of learners to further explore the resolution of the Spain-ETA conflict. Building on the 2016 itinerary, "Memory and Conflict: Dealing with the Past Constructively" expands the immersive experience, providing students with additional high-level briefings, locations and activities to examine this distinctive European peacemaking process.

This year's class is nearly double that of last year, with 14 students heading to the Iberian peninsula over the University spring break. Members of the trip are not solely from the School of Diplomacy; students from across the University are participating in this opportunity, united by a shared interest in the complex conflict that has attracted international attention since 1959.

In addition to increased membership, the tour boasts the inclusion of a visit to the city of Pamplona in the province of Navarre, Spain. Dr. Manojlovic notes that the incorporation of this historic city provides students with a first-hand perspective of the integration of Basque and Castellan peoples in the modern day. Pamplona sits on the itinerary alongside last year's explorations of Bilbao, San Sebastian, Vitoria, and Guernica; a potent combination that allows students to visit cultural sites such as the Guggenheim Museum, and meet local people throughout the region.

Students Visit the Basque Parliament

Dr. Borislava Manojlovic and students visit the Basque Parliament.

During their time in Pamplona, the class will meet with representatives of the Parliament of Navarre, an opportunity that was not available on the previous trip . This parliamentary visit complements a meeting with representatives of the Basque Parliament, a recurring highlight from last year's schedule. Additional sessions for this year's delegation include a meeting with a former Lehendakari, another title for a President of the Basque government, as well as interactions with representatives of victim and prisoner advocacy organizations that are active nongovernmental participants in the ongoing peace process. These expose students to new civil society actors involved in the resolution of the Basque conflict, further enhancing their understanding of a contemporary peace-making situation.

In addition to hearing from a variety of state and civil actors, students will engage with financial groups, nonprofit organizations, and cultural sites. A returning aspect of the itinerary will connect students with the business organization Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, one of the foremost Basque business groups and the tenth largest in Spain, which combines its four Corporate Values of cooperation, participation, social responsibility, and innovation to support competition on international markets and create jobs. This Corporation illustrates the integration of political principles in the modern Basque economy. The Fernando Buesa Foundation, another piece of the Basque puzzle; is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the culture of peace, democracy and social progress, and will provide a nongovernmental flavor to the students' learning. Finally, a visit to the Arantzazu Sanctuary will introduce students to a religious and cultural hallmark deep within the Basque Country as they explore the shrine to the Virgin of Arantzazu.

While this study abroad tour complements the activities of the Basque Research Team, also in operation at Seton Hall, the experience is not restricted to members of that team as the two function separately. One of the Team's institutional partners, the Agirre Lehendakaria Center for Social and Political Studies, was excited to support the study tour in the creation of the itinerary, providing organizational assistance to the course planners and helping to contact the variety of public and private figures that students will interact with during their time abroad . The collaboration with the Center demonstrates the increased institutional commitment to this course, a positive sign for future academic experiences in the Basque Country. Dr. Manojlovic, who is a member of the Research Team as well the leader of the course, stated that while students are welcome to partake in both the Research Team and the study tour, the once in a lifetime venture to the Basque Country is open to all students and scholars who are called to study the Basque conflict.

Maria Ali, a graduate student and research assistant within the School of Diplomacy, expects to return from the trip with a new perspective on the Basque conflict that she feels she could not have gained in the classroom. She is excited that the combined organizational support of the School and the Center will allow her to personally experience the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, the Fernando Buesa Foundation, and the Arantzazu Sanctuary. Further, she looks forward to, "listening and learning from the local people about what is happening on the ground, which is a necessary precondition for successful conflict resolution analysis and practice." Maria highlights the fact that, "approaches to dealing with the past have so far mostly focused on top-down actions such as the creation of policies and coalitions to combat and prevent the occurrence of mass violence." However, she is delighted that this course chooses to, "explore ways in which communities at the grassroots deal with contentious past…examining various social practices and initiatives of counteracting the negative effects of a divisive past through education, art, commemoration, justice, and pedagogy."

In its second year, "Memory and Conflict: Dealing with the Past Constructively," expands the opportunities available to students embarking on this impactful journey. The study tour allows students like Maria and her peers to apply international relations theories in the field and develop themselves as practitioners in the resolution of a real-world conflict. In Maria's eyes, students will go beyond their academic responsibilities, as the course, "provides a space in which each participant will be able to reflect on and re-examine his or her own assumptions," on conflict resolution. Pushing the students out of their comfort zones and testing their theoretical hypothesis in the field is a trademark of Diplomacy study abroad programs and in its continued growth, the study tour of the Basque Country is no exception. 

Categories: Nation and World

For more information, please contact:

  • Borislava Manojlovic
  • (571) 406-9099