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Breakaway Nations: the use of sport and physical culture to create a cross class Catalan identity during the Second Republic.


In 1931 Spain and Catalonia made strides towards democracy as a republic was declared. Throughout the republican period, Catalan governance remained in the hands of the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC). This party aimed to fuse Catalan national identity, which had previously been an elite construct, with left republican democratic policies. In an attempt to create a national identity which was both cross class and democratic, the ERC turned to methods outside of the traditions of Spanish politics up to that point. This Dissertation will argue that sport and physical culture were an important tool in the ERC’s attempts to create a cross class national identity and that they allowed people of various classes to perform and negotiate that identity. The sport in question focused on incorporating as much of the population as possible and was about participation, not excellence. This cross class, mass pariticpation sporting movement became known as the popular sports movement and it would go on to serve as part of the ERC’s foreign policy as it reached its peak in the 1936 Popular Olympics. Before this both elite and popular sports had played a role in the ERC’s domestic policy as well as in the nationalization efforts of Catalan civil society. The popular sport movement made use of the infrastructure for sport which had been built before the Republic but fused this with a new, cross class, discourse of national identity. Youth groups and sports clubs served as schools of democracy and sites for performing and negotiating Catalan national identity. It shall be argued that popular sport bought together groups who had previously been ignored by, and ignored, Catalan politics politics and national identity up. This dissertation argues that, through participating in popular sport and physical culture, more people came to see themselves as Catalan and felt stronger ties to the nation.

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