How Francisco Franco governs from beyond the grave

An infrastructural approach to memory politics in contemporary Spain

by JONAH S. RUBIN

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Four decades after the end of the Franco dictatorship, many Spaniards continue to question their country's claims to full democracy. Although Spain is now governed by popularly elected governments, citizens still experience the coercive effects of the dictatorship's policies in their daily interactions with the built environment, state institutions, and even their fellow citizens. These heterogeneous sites through which the dictatorship makes its presence felt constitute an infrastructure of memory that facilitates and impedes the circulation of past experience. In this context, people enact memory politics not only by contesting narratives of the past but also, first and foremost, by dis‐ and reassembling the physical, institutional, and social entanglements that undergird democratic politics.

A monument to Franco's “Fallen” in Sierra de Gredos, Ávila, Spain, April 2016. In recent years, monuments like this have become a regular target for activists seeking to contest the material remnants of the dictatorship, such as through the graffiti featured in this image.
A monument to Franco's “Fallen” in Sierra de Gredos, Ávila, Spain, April 2016. In recent years, monuments like this have become a regular target for activists seeking to contest the material remnants of the dictatorship, such as through the graffiti featured in this image. (Óscar Rodríguez)