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  • Writer's pictureLa Xixa

The situation: the Multi-layered identities in Spain

As part of the project preparation each 1000 Layers Project partner contributed with relevant information about the local contexts to provide insights of the types of identity conflicts that might be affecting young people in their territories. To understand local dynamics that will most likely have an impact on project development, we focused on six relevant areas:

  • presence of multi-layered identities

  • inter-group tensions and othering

  • approach to interculturality

  • presence of victimhood narratives inter-group interactions


The benefits that can be reaped from greater understanding of multi layered identity, are many. Socially, the lack of understanding around multi-layered identity is the breeding ground for prejudices and stereotypes. Furthermore, Spain is currently in the midst of the Catalonian pledge for independence, which in itself requires an understanding of multi-layered identities on all sides of the argument in order to avoid clashes as a result of hegemonic identity beliefs. In this respect, the group that will benefit the most from the 1000Layers project are young individuals who themselves have multi layered cultural identities, or whose friends/family/colleagues/acquaintances have multicultural identities. For instance, a young woman born in Barcelona to Pakistani parents: her identity layers (Pakistan /Spain / Catalan) play an equally important part in their life, yet she is seen as a foreigner by mainstream society. This inevitably hinges her between two cultures that have been antagonized in the media. Unfortunately the adult guides she has around –such as teachers, Youth workers etc. – lack the necessary tools to provide adequate guidance in order to help them accept and embrace all three cultures equally.

  • This lack of training and tools can bring a lot of suffering to young people:

  • They feel misunderstood and isolated (believing this happens only to them and no one else)

  • They search for help in their peers

  • They tend to polarize either in one identity or the other, going to extreme situations

  • They over-identify with victimhood

  • Helping young people to understand, embrace and work on their multi-layered identity empowers them to go beyond victimhood.

Inter-group tensions and othering

There are conflicts from the practice of othering. As said previously, the Spanish-Catalonian conflict has taken a toll on local unity, polarizing the region in two groups. Many individuals are caught in between, identifying both as Spanish as well as Catalan, or Spanish, Catalan and other. Mass media has played an important part in accentuating otherness by pointing out contrasting aspects between each side (other cultures, other countries, other religions, …)

Policymakers tend to promote positive interactions between groups in order to reduce the in-humanization process, yet there is an intrinsic political need to polarize society. Some unification tactics have had a positive effect, however there remains a need for a strategic, long-term approach with which to combat the wide-spread effects of othering.

Approach to interculturality

Interculturality is acknowledged and addressed in public policy-making at the moment, with numerous programs aimed to foster it. Despite this, the concept struggles when introduced beyond theory, for example in schools, where there is still a need for broader cultural changes that include multiculturalism and interculturality.

Victimhood narratives

Victims are perceived as someone to have compassion for, someone who is faced with adversity in the system without just cause. Throughout our work, we encounter groups and individuals who self-identify as victims, particularly Roma groups. However we also come across groups of people who, despite having the system on their side, i.e. having their citizenship, social aid, etc. perceive themselves as victims of the influx of foreigners taking their jobs. This also happens throughout society in other sub-groups who self-identify as victims of ongoing social processes.

Inter-group interactions

There are many informal contact instances, with little to no awareness around victimhood. People from mainstream groups tend to minimize the effect of belonging to a minority group in the aim not be uncomfortable, trying to reduce the effect of the prejudice, but in doing so people’s identity is simplified into a mass appeal.

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