In Focus: Rebecca Gabay, PhD Researcher

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Llanito literature | Identity | Post-colonialism 

If we are to locate a cultural identity can there be a more relevant medium than literature. In this we find the broad stroke facts and details that colour a people across their myriad diversity. However, perhaps of greater interest is the subtle nuance of phraseology and language, character and passions. These are the cultural fibres indicative of a community identity and often the first place we learn of who we are.

It is with this in mind that Rebecca asks the question: why is there an apparent scarcity of Gibraltarian creative writing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her choice of the University of Gibraltar as the focal point to her research is an obvious one. ‘The writers I am studying, or their families, are here in Gibraltar. This supports the process of interviews with writers or their wider context of friends and family. I am also in contact with key critics of local literature based in Gibraltar and academic centres in the surrounding area of Spain. Furthermore, I have access to important local archives such as the Garrison Library and the Gibraltar Chronicle, where many local writers have published their work’.

The end point for Rebecca’s research is one of substantive legacy for her home. ‘My studies of Gibraltarian literature will hopefully complement and enhance existing research into Gibraltarian culture and identity. I believe it is important for us to understand our literary history as part of a larger cultural history. For example, Elio Cruz’s Llanito plays reflect a Gibraltar changed by the evacuation of local people during the Second World War. Cruz was writing before Franco’s blockade and closure of the frontier.


‘‘I believe it is important for us, as Gibraltarians, to understand our literary history as part of a larger cultural history.’

This is a crucial turning point in terms of local identity in relation to our socio-political context. Moreover, it is of interest not only locally, but also in terms of its contribution to a corpus of world literature that generates colonial discourse’.

It is that reaching out into the global learning of identity that makes this research of great relevance to Gibraltar but also to our much broader understanding of what social identity actually means. Locating literature as a signifying art form is not a new concept much as England finds meaning in Shakespeare and the US, through writers such as Steinbeck, but it is a relevant one. Gibraltar can also find a collective personality through its writers. In doing this Rebecca has the opportunity to shine a global light on many local writers whose works are worthy of attention in terms of their literary merit. Her work will undoubtedly help to reveal their value.

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