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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. Cultural Expressions (Sherry Simon)

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Introduction

Cultural Expressions

Sherry SIMON

Since the 1960s, issues of cultural diversity have become increasingly prominent in public debates in Quebec. As the socio-demographic composition of Quebec has changed, so has its self-awareness as a cosmopolitan and plural society. Recent public conversations such as the Bouchard-Taylor Commission and—later—the acrimonious controversy over the Charter of Values have had the effect of polarizing public opinion. In particular, the Charter proposed by the Parti Québécois between September 2013 and April 2014 was an example of the way a manufactured fear of diversity can be mobilized for narrow political ends. Critical reflection on this episode in Quebec history is far from exhausted, in particular on the ways that the values of some were pitted against those of others.1 The debate focused attention on a constellation of terms whose meanings were dangerously vague: value, universalism, neutrality, diversity, difference. The logic of the Charter was: the more we “look” similar, the better. Rather than neutrality or universality, this measure seemed to be decreeing a kind of uniformity. But limiting the number of possibilities of expression is to create frameworks condemned to shrink indefinitely. There will always be a difference that will escape, like a slip that shows. Isn’t universalism more properly protected by the proliferation of differences?

Much reflection on culture in Quebec since the 1980s has precisely been focused on the multiplication of differences, on increasing the angles of...

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