Entrance to La Tabacalera. Lavapiés, Madrid.
As a researcher, my specialization is in the literatures and culture of twentieth- and twenty-first century Spain with a special emphasis on the relationship between cultural production and urban development. My multifaceted approach incorporates the study of theater, cultural geography, and visual culture over a broad period of Spanish history. Relying on this interdisciplinary methodology, I spent the 2011-2012 the academic year in Madrid, Spain as a Fulbright Fellow researching my current book project, a study of Madrid's iconic Lavapiés neighborhood. Looking for points of intersection between Literary Studies and Cultural Geography, I contextualize this process of gentrification against a broad historical backdrop that illustrates the long and important relationship between urban space and theater in both Lavapiés and Madrid. As a result, my research not only focuses on contemporary Spain, but also other important moments of confluence between urban space and theater production. These include the emergence of corrales de comedias [public theaters] in the seventeenth-century, the sainetes [short plays] of Ramón de la Cruz in the eighteenth century, and the highly influential género chico [brief musicals] and large-format zarzuelas [popular musical theater] of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. My work has also studies the cultural production of a group of okupas [squatters] who between 2002 and 2003 transformed an abandoned warehouse into a neighborhood space for art, theater, and online activism that sought to challenge the top-down development represented by the a new national theater building, Teatro Valle-Inclán, that was inaugurated in 2006. More recently my work has focused on other examples of urban self-management or autogestión of derelict urban spaces. These have included the self-managed social center La Tabacalera, an iconic tobacco factory in Lavapiés that the Ministry of Culture ceded to a local social collective in 2010. Deeply connected with the indignados [outraged] of the 15th of May movement, La Tabacalera offers a fruitful site to contemplate the impact of Spain’s current economic crisis on urban space and to study emerging avenues of cultural production in Madrid in the twenty-first century.