An Interview with Pedro Oiarzabal

You have done wide research (which will be forthcoming from CBS Press) on the Basque diaspora community online. Could you tell us a little about that research and about the Basque online community?

Since 2005 I have studied all types of Basque diaspora organizations and their presence on the Internet and how these have evolved through time and have successfully adapted to new web applications such as social network sites. Currently, 64% of the total number of Basque diaspora associations from 20 countries have a presence in cyberspace, which shows the significance of these technologies. For instance, as of July 2012, 128 Basque diaspora associations have established formal groups on Facebook. The use of new technologies is enabling Basques abroad to keep in close contact with the Basque Country while also helping to reinforce their collective identity, providing them with a sense of unity despite being geographically dispersed throughout the world. Given that the Basque diaspora is about 1.5 times as large as the population in the home country, and with an institutional presence in 24 countries, the issue of communication and contact—and the role of information and communication technologies in it—is of vast importance. Technology offers the Basque diaspora ways to resolve issues relating to networking as well as physical and temporal distance. Basque migrants and their descendants feel much closer to “home,” because of the Internet, mobile phones and satellite television.
Can you describe the oral history project that you are conducting right now and its goal to help preserve Basque culture and history?

Since 2011, Dr. Nerea Mujika, the Director of the Institute of Basque Studies at the University of Deusto in Bilbao, and I are conducting research on Basque emigrants and returnees, from the province of Bizkaia, as part of a larger project called BizkaiLab, which is the result of an innovative agreement between the Provincial Council of Bizkaia and the University of Deusto. Our research project aims at preserving the rich migrant past of the Basque people for generations to come by gathering information from the people who actually migrated and returned. Consequently, we are using an oral history approach in order to give voice to those people who left the Basque Country and returned as well as those who are still abroad. In this regard, we have been extremely fortunate to visit the Center for Basque Studies from where my colleague, Ainara Puerta, and I are completing fieldwork in the American West for the last month.

Pedro J. Oiarzabal holds a PhD in Basque Studies-Political Science from the University of Nevada, Reno and is a researcher on Migration Studies at the Institute of Human Rights, University of Deusto (Bilbao, Spain). His research examines diaspora creation and diaspora interaction with information and communication technologies as well as the meaning of identity in both homeland and diaspora realities, with particular emphasis on the Basque case. Among his most recent publications are "Gardeners of Identity: Basques in the San Francisco Bay Area" (2009), "Diasporas in the New Media Age: Identity, Politics, and Community" (2010), and "Knowledge Communities" (2011). He also writes the blog “Basque Identity 2.0” for the Basque Radio and Television Group, EITB.