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Bull-fights and their changing social context in Spain: thoughts based on recent fieldwork

Professor Garry Marvin, Roehampton University

Wednesday 2 October at 5.30 pm

From Pasture to Plaza: Wild Bulls in Spain and City Discontents.

The toro de lidia (the Spanish fighting bull) is a wild animal that has been conserved, protected and respected for its wild condition in order for it to participate in an urban cultural event. Although selectively bred for centuries by humans the toros de lidia has never become a domesticated animal. Its pedigree is not that of horses and dogs. Its pedigree is its wildness. Despite the fact that the animal spends most of its life in the countryside the significance of its particular nature does not reside there. Its nature is only fully revealed when it is brought into contact with humans in the public place of the  plaza de toros (the bullring) in the city. It is a creature of the countryside and the city. In this paper I will consider what the toro de lidia is made to represent in modern Spain. I will explore two key issues. Firstly, how the toro de lidia has become a political animal in the social and cultural politics between Catalonia and ‘Castillian’  Spain and the recent banning of the formal bullfight, an unwanted intrusion of tradition into modernity, in Catalonia. Secondly I will explore how those who defend the bullfight have sought to make the event and the animals part of Spanish ‘National Heritage’. Part of my focus here will be how the toro de lidia has been reconfigured as a socio-ecological creature, the ‘guardian of the dehesa’, the wooded meadowlands in which it lives. This is a special ecosystem and landscape that many argue must be conserved and that conservation crucially depends on bull breeders preserving it for their animals. Without the toro de lidia it is argued, the dehesa, would be lost; converted into agricultural land.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked.  To book tickets please go to http://garrymarvin.eventbrite.co.uk/“>http://garrymarvin.eventbrite.co.uk/#