Buenos Aires Times

The wandering path of language and capitalism

Professor Catherine Davies says she thinks that Britain "leaving Europe" is ridiculous, but that it was is time to establish better connections, better relations with countries beyond Europe.

Saturday 24 February, 2018
Professor Catherine Davies.
Professor Catherine Davies. Foto:Cedoc

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Professor Catherine Davies said she was not a supporter of Brexit. However, she hopes that Britain’s march out of Europe will mean that the Foreign Office rebuilds links and relationships which were broken with long-friendly countries in another older world. Brexit’s product being an outreach effort.

It may change the face of capitalism. (Perhaps we should also hope for changes in the distribution of wealth in a world where the 62 most disgustingly rich people on the planet own as much private net wealth as the poorer half of humanity, more than 3.5 billion people.

That is according to Walter Scheidel in his book, The Great Leveller: Violence and the History of Inequality From the Stone Age to to the 21st Century. That might be part of another article, but it doesn’t stop being interesting.)

Britain can be unkindly described as morally poorer by losing or not caring for contacts abandoned by the English in their headlong pursuit of cheapo Continental holidays and tax-free booze. That made membership of Europe attractive to the voter, more than, for example, hard-working Canadians with a history and an identity of support for England long after the end of Empire. And there was not much English sympathy for remote New Zealand, about which most Britons only knew that good mutton was produced, having forgotten the support given during two wars and more.

No, Professor Davies did not say all that, but the above paragraph adds to circumstances.

Perhaps it is too late to rebuild relations such as those there were with Argentina, after the Malvinas (Falklands) conflict, Dr Davies said.

“It would be very good for Britain if we could recover those contacts and relations with countries that really were long-term allies and supporters, New Zealand and Canada, also Australia and India and many other smaller nations. Now, it is more difficult for their citizens to enter Britain than Romanians and Lithuanians, who walk in and out simply because they are in the European Community… We leave out old friends. I hope we can strengthen relations with other South American countries,” Dr Davies said.

Davies drew attention to the recent situation of some women in Colombia and Peru, filmmakers who had been invited to a festival in the United Kingdom. “To travel to London, the Peruvian had to apply for a visa in Rio de Janeiro. The Foreign Office only left two people in the Consulate in Lima.”

“It’s sad. We lose our knowledge of many places claiming there is not enough funding, so we are short of much more than just cash.” Dr Davies said she thought that “leaving Europe” was ridiculous, but that it was also time to establish better connections, better relations with countries beyond Europe.

Catherine Davies is a professor of Hispanic and Latin American Studies (University of Nottingham) and the current director of the Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study, at the University of London. She specialises in 19th- and 20thcentury Spanish and Spanish-American literature and cultural history.

Her long-standing research interests are gender, nationalism and literature, and 19th-century Spanish colonial politics and abolitionism in Cuba and Spain. She has also researched the literary and cultural production of Spanish, Cuban and Spanish-American women authors and editions of literary texts. Her recent research is interdisciplinary, exploring the intersections between literature, history and thought in Spain and Spanish America, in particular the impact of warfare, violence and militarisation on the social gender order in the Spanish Atlantic Empire in the early 1800s.

Her publications include Latin American Women’s Writing. Feminist Readings in Theory and Crisis (edited with Anny Brooksbank Jones, 1996); A Place in the Sun? Women’s Writing in 20th-century Cuba (1997); Spanish Women’s Writing 1849-1996 (1998), an edition of the Cuban feminist-abolitionist novel Sab (1841) by Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (2001), ‘Gender Studies’ in The Cambridge Companion to the Latin American Novel (edited by Efraín Kristal), and South American Independence: Gender, Politics, Text (with C. Brewster and H. Owen, 2006), the first book to address gender in the history of the Spanish American Wars of Independence with Spain. More recently she has published ‘Literature by Women in the Spanish Antilles: 1800-1950,’ in The Cambridge History of Latin American Women’s Literature (editors Ileana Rodriguez and Monica Szurmuk, 2015) and ‘The Gender Order of Post-war Politics: Comparing Spanish South America and Spain, 1810s-1850s,’ in War, Demobilization and Memory: The Legacy of War in the Era of Atlantic Revolutions (editors Alan Forrest, Karen Hagemann and Michael Rowe, 2016).

After that (incomplete) career whack, it becomes clear why Professor Davies, in London, has joined forces with Dr Guillermo Mira, an Argentine-born professor at the University of Salamanca, in Spain, to organise a conference next October on “Britain, Argentina, Spain, Cultural exchanges in the 20th and 21st centuries.” Conference issues appear to move in different directions. Professor Mira wants to look at the context of Malvinas and the 1970s. Dr Davies at present declares an interest in languages and their studies.

Conference topics include debate on the changing nature of language and its influence on commercial exchange and international trade. Equally impressive in the October event is in the field of changing languages. That involves thinking how capitalism was transformed, for the Americas, in the 19th century.

After nearly three centuries of colonial rule of the Americas from a political and economic imperial seat in Castille and in just a few months, the requirements of Britain – which was unable to trade in a Europe dominated by Napoleon – as from 1805, forced the start of change toward liberal economies in the Spanish colonies. Britain went for new markets, the Cape in South Africa, Stabroek in Guyana, Buenos Aires, and more. There are plenty of examples.

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