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Comparing Canada and the Americas

From Roots to Transcultural Networks

Patrick Imbert

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.

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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...

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