“I´ve had the chance to learn about new aspects of Basque identity at the University of Nevada”

Euskara. Kultura. Mundura.


To what extent can football influence identity? How do people from the Basque diaspora relate to Basque football (soccer) teams? How much of their Basque identity is especially influenced by the Athletic professional football club?

Izaskun Larrieta, profesor and researcher at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), completed a research fellow residency in the United States at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), from August to September 2022, as part of the Jon Bilbao Chair organized by the Etxepare Basque Institute. Entitled ´Athletic Club as a Vector of Basque Internationalization´, the aim of this study was to analyse Basque identity in the US diaspora through the Athletic Club football association.

The study´s objective was to evaluate the Athletic Club´s function as a tool for diaspora integration, specifically, to analyse the presence, image and value of the Athletic Club trademark in the context of Basque identity.

Larrieta´s first goal for the study was to undertake a quantitative study. "Studies in the humanities often employ qualitative analyses. I concentrated on observation and in-depth interviews to make my contribution quantitative. I completed a questionnaire and conducted a total of 18 in-person interviews," Larrieta explained.

In the second phase of her residency, Larrieta conducted bibliographical and documentary research, reading literature on the diaspora, identity, nationalism and sport to build the framework for her research. She was pleased with her accomplishments in the United States, saying that she had collected an extensive amount of material.

Larrieta must now compile, analyse and develop all the interviews and documents she consulted. However, she said that she her suspicions were confirmed: "I have developed a series of hypotheses that I must now validate scientifically, in quantitative terms."

A major leap forward

Larrieta´s study took her level of understanding of the issue to another level. "I learned about new aspects of Basque identity and people’s love for Euskal Herria, but from the perspective of fourth and fifth generation diaspora members. The feelings are very much alive despite all odds," she added.

Larrieta is now working on transcribing interviews, developing data and writing an article that compiles all this information. In addition to being a lecturer at the UPV/EHU, Larrieta served as the Athletic Club treasurer for eight years, and at that time she researched the team´s sporting performance using information from a business management perspective. She has since looked into its impact and the connection to the diaspora, exploring her subject from a new angle.

Created in 2014, the aim of the Jon Bilbao Chair is to promote research and knowledge about the Basque diaspora and culture and collaborate with international institutions. The chair has created a research grant, the Jon Bilbao Visiting Research Fellow, offered every other year.  The grantee will stay for one month at the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, the main teaching and research institution for studies on the Basque Diaspora in the United States. One of the recipient’s main tasks is to carry out his/her research and disseminate the results internationally.

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