Comparing Canada and the Americas
From Roots to Transcultural Networks
Table Of Contents
- About the authors
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Table of Contents
- Chapter 1. The Invention of Nation-States and Founding Paradigms: Exterior/Interior as a Synonym for Barbarism/Civilization
- Chapter 2. Escaping From Narratives Legitimizing Exclusion
- Chapter 3. The Contemporary Intercultural, Multicultural, and Transcultural Dynamics
- Conclusion: The Surplus of Knowledge
and the Americas
From Roots to Transcultural Networks
Translated by Jonathan Cimon-Lambert
and Zishad Lak
New York • Bern • Berlin
Brussels • Vienna • Oxford • Warsaw
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Control Number: 2019022845
Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek. Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the “Deutsche Nationalbibliografie”; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de.
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About the book
Comparing Canada and the Americas: From Roots to Transcultural Networks covers the Americas in a comparative perspective spanning from the 19th century to the 21st century. It explores socio-cultural dynamics changing considerably in the Americas, which are progressively shedding their original fascination for Europe and slowly recognizing the importance of Indigenous, Afro-descendants, and immigrant cultures. The Americas have many dynamics in common, such as the presence of shared dualistic paradigms, like civilization/barbarism, which is a synonym for self/others. From the invention of the Nation States to globalization, the valorization of taking roots has transformed into the valorization of the legitimacy of geo-symbolic displacements. A comparative study of Canada, Quebec, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the USA reveals both the exclusions and the inclusions that, in literary, artistic, and media productions as well as political essays, are founded on the opposition between interior and exterior. The current era has seen the displacement of these oppositions within the context of the recognition of the others. This recognition is rooted in multicultural, intercultural, and transcultural perspectives. In the current networked and complex contemporary world, literary, artistic, political, and media texts go beyond dichotomous oppositions and historical master narratives legitimating exclusions. Instead, they valorize “chameleoning” and the surprise of encounters with different cultures, thus creating new perspectives linked to a techno-cultural and democratic future based on the desire to share and to belong to oneself.
This eBook can be cited
This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.
Table of contents
Chapter 1. The Invention of Nation-States and Founding Paradigms: Exterior/Interior as a Synonym for Barbarism/Civilization
Chapter 2. Escaping From Narratives Legitimizing Exclusion
Chapter 3. The Contemporary Intercultural, Multicultural, and Transcultural Dynamics
hiddenConclusion: The Surplus of Knowledge←vii | viii→ ←viii | ix→
This comparative research on the Americas was made possible through the support of The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This book, the result of this research, meets the objectives of University of Ottawa Research Chair directed by Patrick Imbert, “Canada: Social and Cultural Challenges in a Knowledge-Based Society.”←ix | x→ ←x | xi→
How can we compare the Americas according to cultural perspectives? Certainly not within the framework of a historical discourse that has tended to base itself on differences. After all, any historical discourse is controlled by its allegiance to the nation-state and tends to impose canonical points of view which serve the interests of a culture and of a society presented as homogeneous (Paquin 1999). As evidenced by the textbooks used in schools, few states would agree to legitimize several concurrent histories. Canada, which is a multinational and multiethnic state, as mentioned by Will Kymlicka in Multicultural Odysseys (2007), is one of the rare countries to develop a multicultural perspective that is to live its identity primarily on the ambitious idea of an economic, cultural and civic federation rather than on one simply based on territory. All historical discourses also tend to disseminate narratives legitimizing borders as a result of often arbitrary or deadly military conflicts.
The method based on historical comparisons embodies the methodological nationalism criticized by Andreas Wimmer and Nina Glick Schiller (2002) and, by others after them under different contexts and purposes; most notably by Will Kymlicka in 2007 and Carlos Sandoval García in 2007. Yet, the Americas are built on coincidences rather than on causalities1, on encounters to develop in the present or in short-term future rather than on long-←xi | xii→term established relationships like in Asia or in Europe. It should, however, be understood that the democratic culture in most countries in Europe and in Asia—in contradistinction with the practice of long-term European or Asian cultures of erecting grandiose historical monuments related to aristocratic or dictatorial systems—has been in place for a short period of time. However, democratic cultures have been thriving for a long time in Canada and in the United States, unlike the newer or almost non-existent democracies in many countries of the world with authoritarian histories.
Admittedly, each state tries to invent, in the process of political independence, long cultural and economic timeframes, which combine causalities in order to generate narrative-based identities. Each state usually seeks to impose these processes dualistically in order to generate a belief in homogeneity. In the nineteenth century, these timeframes and causalities are found in the paradigm of barbarism/civilization which excludes many populations in the Americas like the Natives, the Blacks and the Métis. This paradigm is in itself a particular historical and cultural configuration of a more fundamental paradigm reproduced throughout the centuries, in societies and narratives: the exterior/interior paradigm (see section: Comparative Paradigms). It is connected to an anthropological foundation of space organization and is supported by René Girard’s theory (1978) which presents the detailed mechanism of the invention of solidarity based on the exclusion of a scapegoat as a result of the struggle of all against all aiming at controlling a desired object. This struggle is rooted in the mimesis of appropriation leading everybody to try to control the object of desire produced by a model. This mimetic mechanism threatens to constantly destroy the social order. Hence, the barbarism/civilization paradigm joined a broader master narrative (Lyotard 1979), which is Eurocentric and colonialist, the ramifications of which extend throughout the world in the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century. However, during the second half of the twentieth century and in the twenty-first century, the barbarism/civilization paradigm transforms itself in a series of elements eluding dualism, playing on non-dualism, fluidity and concepts such as chameleonage (see section: The Generalized Chameleonage), legitimacy of displacements and ideas of inter, multi and transculturalism (section: Transcultural Citizenship).
That is why, for the last sixty years, the barbarism/civilization paradigm legitimizing narratives of exclusion has been questioned. It should be noted that in 1991 Colombia changed its constitution of 1886 for a multicultural one by removing the assertion that all Colombians were descendants from←xii | xiii→ Castille in Spain. It was this assertion that led to violent exclusions, because it did not correspond to any constructive dynamic in the daily socio-economic practices. In Quebec, the misleading side of history is underlined by Éric Dupont in his novel La Logeuse (2006). In this novel, he criticizes Joan of Arc’s myth and Catholic nationalism. He also rejects the murderous disinformation of the orthodox ideologies such as Marxism and their dictatorial political regulations while promoting open, successful and ethical meetings between groups and individuals (section: The Variegated Land). As opposed to the domination by a national state history that wants to be homogenous and aims to establish a long-term perspective, Will Kymlicka, particularly in Multicultural Odysseys, sees Canada as a country where individuals and groups from all over the world can flourish with their different pasts. Thanks to its parabolic dimension, Yann Martel’s Life of Pi (2001) explores the possibilities of living together in a present to be invented for the survivors (the tiger and Piscine) sharing a raft. In their encounter, each character embodies radical otherness, yet they manage to cooperate.
Moving past the perspective wherein the national culture appears as homogeneous and controlled by the nation states’ stories of legitimacy to a vision promoting the study of forgotten links and dynamic encounters within the complex coincidences and simultaneities of the present context of liberalism and globalization, we will be analyzing the changes that redefine the Americas. Clifford Geertz (1983) mentions that, often, ideas and responses to similar situations (various colonial relations) or to similar discussions (of European cultural dominance) are invented in places that are not necessarily historically linked. Even so, these responses and dynamics are based on arguments aiming at similar desired effects, such as the creation of a rooted identity leading to the invention of a nation imagined as homogeneous while the changes brought on by globalization upset society and lead to the creation of multiple and networked self-images. These changes displace the dualistic and static basic paradigms defining the national identity. They turn into more inclusive dynamics where the dualistic paradigms become complex fluidities.
Thus, from a modernist vantage point, despite the dream of stability trying to control the fear of chaos, the perspectives often focused on the exploration of change, as seen in the work of T. C. Keefer entitled Philosophy of Railroads (1853). Nowadays, the craving for stability and the importance of dualistic paradigms is displaced by a desire to establish and study fluid connections to develop societies based on the respect of differences within a framework fostering equality.←xiii | xiv→
Hence, we aim to understand how the various regions of the Americas have invented themselves, according to the sense of the word “invent” put forth by the Palo Alto school (by Gregory Bateson (1972) for example), and how they invent and reinvent themselves daily. Nowadays, they escape from the essentialist identity stemming from the nineteenth century dualism and aim at fostering multicultural relational identities. As highlighted by Abril Trigo (1997) and Yvon Rivard (2005), the Americas still remain an unfinished project. They constantly produce new stories that support cultural mobility and multiple encounters in dynamics which are open to the unexpected. These new stories are related to the prospects offered by interculturalism, multiculturalism and transculturalism (Benessaieh/Imbert 2011; Fontille/Imbert 2012).
1. Hence, it is difficult to agree with a genetic approach, which tries to establish causal links when comparing the Americas such as can be found in the articles published by Lois Parkinson Zamora, Eduardo Gonzalez, José Piedra and David T. Haberly in the book edited by Gustavo Pérez Firmat titled Do the Americas Have a Common Literature? (Durham, Duke University Press, 1990). The appositional approach developed by Wendy H. Faris, René Prieto and Jonathan Monroe in this book is more interesting.
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- Publication date
- 2019 (October)
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XVI, 218 pp.