José Miguel de Barandiaran

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José Miguel de Barandiaran was born in Ataun in Gipuzkoa in 1889. In 1904, he started studying Latin and humanities at the Baliarrain (G) grammar school. From 1906 to 1912, he studied Philosophy and Theology at the Vitoria Council Seminary. He was interested in geology, physics and mathematics and taught himself French, German and English. Before taking Holy Orders, Barandiaran studied to be a teacher on his own and qualified as a teacher at the Vitoria Teaching Training College.

When studying theology, he suffered an intellectual crisis and began to read up on the origins of religion and the history of the different religions. In 1913, he went to Leipzig University to follow a course taught by Wilhem Wundt. The guidance he received there and his subsequent relationship with that professor would steer his ethnographic and anthropological research towards his cultural setting and was a shift from purely bookish science. In 1914, Barandiaran was ordained a priest in Vitoria. In 1915, he was sent to Burgos Ecclesiastical University where he graduated in Theology.

In 1916, he joined the Vitoria Seminary as a science teacher and would remain there until 1936. The folk legends that he discovered in Ataun about “Jentils buried in Aralar” led him to discover a dolmen site. The publication of those findings led him to established a long relationship with Professor Telesforo de Aranzadi and Professor Enrique Eguren. Barandiaran would then continue with his archaeological research combining this interest in prehistory with gathering ethnographic data.

In 1921, he began to publish the monthly magazine Eusko-Folklore. Materiales y Cuestionarios, which would run until 1975. That same year, he founded the Eusko-Folklore Society. The fieldwork of its members was published in the Anuario de la Sociedad de Eusko-Folklore, whose name was later changed to Anuario de Eusko-Folklore and that yearbook has survived to the present.

In 1928, in addition to the many publications to which he contributed and edited, Barandiaran began to make films, some of which were ethnographic in nature. In 1934, Volume XIV of the Anuario de Eusko Folklore published the “Questionnaire for research into folklife”, which was in response to the project to conduct a general ethnographic survey throughout the Basque Country.

In 1936, he went into exile and continued with his prehistorical and ethnographic research in the part of the Basque Country within France as he moved from town to town in that territory.

In 1946, the creation of the Ikuska/Institut Basque de Recherches saw him resume his work interrupted by the Spanish Civil and World Wars, and it would be the continuation of the two institutions that he set up in Vitoria twenty-five years earlier: the Eusko Folklore Society (1921) and the Prehistory Research Centre (1925). He also edited the Ikuska newsletter to showcase the research carried out at that institute. In 1949, as part of the Ikuska project, he began to publish a “Questionnaire for an ethnographic study of the Basque people”.

In 1953, Barandiaran returned from exile and was the first to hold the Larramendi Chair at Salamanca University with a course on the state of Basque studies. In 1955, after a twenty-year break, a new issue of the Anuario de Eusko Folklore was published. In 1964, Barandiaran began to teach “Ethnology of the Basque People as part of the Basque Language and Culture Chair that was established at the University of Navarra. He ran it until the 1979-80 academic year.

In 1968, Barandiaran set up the first Etniker group at the University of Navarra. In 1970, he set out the guidelines for the Etniker research plan in the XXIII Volume of the Anuario de Eusko Folklore. Etniker Álava was established in 1971 and Etniker Gipuzkoa in 1972. The Etniker Bizkaia group was set up in the Basque Library of Derio Seminary in 1973.

In 1974, he went on his last archaeological dig in Axlor at the age of 84. Volume XXV of the Anuario de Eusko-Foklore published the first part of the ethnographic questionnaire in pursuit of a systematic survey. The first studies by Etniker members appeared in that publication. In 1975, Barandiaran ended the drafting of the general ethnographic questionnaire begun in 1968.

In 1987, the Etniker Groups agreed to produce the Ethnographic Atlas of the Basque Country. In 1990, Barandiaran wrote the prologue to the first volume on Household Food as part of this Atlas project, that he designed and oversaw. It was his last piece of writing.

Barandiaran died in Ataun in 1991.