An optimistic humanist who committed himself to the cause of the peoples

Aureli Argemí.
Aureli Argemí. Author: Paula Roque
Nationalia founder and first director, Aureli Argemí, passed away April 1 after completing an unmatched career in the defense of stateless peoples’ rights and, very particularly, in disseminating their knowledge. Periodicals and news sites were among Argemí’s favorite tools to make the existence of these peoples better known, the languages they speak, and the struggles they sustain for their collective rights.

Since 2007, Nationalia has continued the legacy of several paper magazines Aureli Argemí founded within CIEMEN: first in Italy—like Minoranze—and later in Catalonia—with Altres Nacions and, above all, the quarterly Europa de les Nacions. In all of them, Argemí poured his exhaustive knowledge of stateless peoples—particularly those of Europe—and his characteristic outlook, which combined a profound humanism with an optimism that did not, however, make him deluded.

Argemí contributed to this news site for more than a decade: one can dive into the Nationalia archive to find dozens of articles he wrote. His optimism often led him to prioritise hopeful approaches to a subject—stateless peoples—which can easily veer towards the dramatic. This way of looking at the world—consistent with a peace journalism approach—was part of the originality of his work and one aspect of his commitment to the future of peoples.

The founder of CIEMEN and Nationalia died at a historical moment that seems inauspicious for the advancement of collective rights. We are witnessing the closure of the nation-state in many parts of the world, a hardening of international relations, and the massive violation of the rights of peoples in Palestine, Rojava, Nagorno-Karabakh, West Papua, Crimea, and so many other scenarios. However, Argemí also died as we heard news of Erdoganism’s election backlash, the resilience of the Kurdish movement in Turkey, and the increase in Basque language knowledge among Euskadi’s youth. News of hope from Kurdistan and the Basque Country, two of the nations with which Argemí was most involved and knew the most.

They were not the only ones, however. Nationalia is indebted to Argemí’s ambitious and globalising gaze towards the peoples and stateless nations of the world. If he devoted his early attention, more than 50 years ago, to the national question in Catalonia, the Basque Country, Friuli, Occitania, or Aosta, he soon felt attracted and challenged by the vicissitudes of peoples such as the Palestinians, the Armenians, the various indigenous American nations, or by the emergence of post-colonial nations, as in the case of formerly Ethiopian-occupied Eritrea.

The vast knowledge that Argemí gathered and generated is the result of thousands of readings to which he devoted himself throughout his life—a dedication he maintained until his decease—, of his openness and ease in conversing with and learning from others, and, of course, his almost proverbial fondness for travelling. In his memoirs, La llavor sembrada (Pòrtic, 2023), Argemí notes:

“Travelling experiences have sharpened my observation, they have proved to broaden my horizons, [they have been] a starting point for reflection, for neater actions, and a source of emotions. At the same time, they have led me to internalise the essence of diversity in order to promote unity between people and their respective spheres. I have better experienced how wanting to be universal or global means appreciating, more accurately and with greater precision, ‘my’ local world. This is what I call being a citizen of the world. [...] I have experienced that the borders between the concepts of nature and culture are subtle, and make Western cataloguing obsolete” (translation from Catalan my own).

Aureli Argemí imbued Nationalia with this gaze. Those of us who try to prolong his dissemination legacy hope to succeed in continuing to project it.