Business, Politics and Activism: LGTB Activism in Spain and Its 'unintended' Outcomes

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 16:30
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Begonya ENGUIX, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain
This proposal aims to analyse two ‘unintended’ outcomes of Spanish contemporary LGTB Activism. On the first hand, the conversion of Madrid State Pride Demonstration in a mass spectacle that brings more than two million tourists to Madrid and leaves a benefit of at least 110m euros for the city, has fed the debates about the relationship between business and politics.  But probably without this ‘alliance’ Spain would not have been one of the first countries in the world to legallize egalitarian marriage.

In the last two years, and particularly in 2015, another ‘unintended outcome’ of LGTB activism has become evident. In a context of ‘new politics’ in Spain, with some emergent political parties (Podemos, Ciudadanos) and many elections being held during 2015, the connections between the LGTB ‘officialist’ movement and mainstream politics have been intensified. Many members of the LGTB associations have left their associations to be included as candidates for different parties; also the presence of the political parties in the LGTB demonstrations is visibly increasing. The reactions of grassroots activists towards this ‘political colonization’ is not unanimous.

This process of hybridation between mainstream politics and grassroots activism draws our attention to the status and roles of LGTB associations. One of the most important LGTB activists (and a politician) in Spain, Pedro Zerolo, shortly before dying remembered associations that they were not just NGOs, but political instruments.

This proposal aims to analyse the relationship between these two ‘unintended’ outcomes and enable a reflection about the contemporary nature of the connection between grassroots activism and ‘mainstream’ politics. It is based in intensive ethnographic research of Pride celebrations in Spain, in-depth interviews with LGTB activists and leaders and participant observation of the Marches: in 2015 I was invited to the VIP zone of Madrid March.