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Engaging with Diversity

Multidisciplinary Reflections on Plurality from Quebec

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Edited By Stéphan Gervais, Raffaele Iacovino and Mary-Anne Poutanen

Contributed by leading scholars of Quebec Studies, both emerging and established, the 30 essays of this comprehensive collection offer a multidisciplinary survey of the study of diversity in Quebec over space and time. The volume is organized around a variety of themes through which Quebec’s plural reality is expressed, including conceptual, historical and contemporary approaches, covering a wide range of social and economic cleavages, identity markers, political contestation and, broadly, the lived experiences of Quebecers negotiating difference over time. In an environment increasingly demarcated by conflicts around values and cultural and social practices, this collection hopes to contribute to broadening the spectrum of voices to the current debate, adding an inclusive reflection to a conversation that has only intensified over the last decade. Quebec as a pluri-national and multi-ethnic society has been and remains a great laboratory to study and to test public policies on ethnic diversity. It allows us to identify the tensions and to evaluate the balance between the majority and the minority; and between settler society and indigenous nations, in conceptualizing and finding a normative consensus around the configuration of collective rights. In short, the contributions in this volume seek to illustrate how pluralism has and continues to constitute the lifeblood of belonging in Quebec.

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Introduction. Challenging Citizenship (Bruce Curtis)

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Introduction

Challenging Citizenship

Bruce CURTIS

Collectively, the papers in this section share an interest in forms of belonging and collective identity. They range over the period from the first half of the nineteenth century until the present, and their orientation to their subject might be called “post-identity”. A preoccupation with identity and identity-politics (re-)emerged in Western scholarship in the face of the so-called “new social movements” of the 1960s and 1970s. A further impetus was the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent disintegration of the Soviet Union. These two processes propelled a decline in academic and political Marxism, with a sharp shift away from seeing class membership as the fundamental determinant of self-understanding and collective interest. Nationalist currents, stimulated by the break-up of the post-war order and post-colonialism, gained new force in many parts of the world. Nationalists usually claim that common membership in the “national community” trumps, or must trump, internal social differences. At the same time, the rise of the new social movements provided new terms and new languages in and through which people could situate and make sense of themselves.

Many scholars were initially tempted to treat identity as an essential feature or property of individuals or groups. It was seen as something people “have”, and their conduct and interests were often attributed to it. Yet such “essentialist” notions of identity fell apart as scholars and social movement activists confronted...

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