British Journal of Canadian Studies

Theorising small nations in the Atlantic world: Scottish lessons for Québec?

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2005), 18, (2), 214–230.

Abstract

british journal of canadian studies 214 Linda Cardinal and Gilles Paquet Theorising small nations in the Atlantic world : Scottish lessons for Québec? I t is no exaggeration to say that distinctions such as ethnic versus civic nationalism, collectivism versus individualism or tradition versus modernity have not helped our understanding of the politics of small nations. They have led to abstract discussions in which the only question that seems to matter is where to place their nationalism on the ethnic-civic axis. This has certainly been a subject much debated in Canada, especially during the 1990s when the country almost conferred upon Québec the status of a ‘distinct’ society. There has been much opposition to such recognition, especially from English-Canadian feminist and multicultural social movements because they believed that any recognition of Québec’s distinctiveness would undermine the recognition by the courts of the rights of Québec women, immigrants, Aboriginals and angloQuebeckers. Because of its unique position in North American society, Québec has been more often than not considered, by both Quebeckers themselves and by English Canadians to be something of an anomaly. As the anomalous ‘Other’, Québec is understood as having lived under a ‘Grande noirceur’ until the 1960s. This twentieth-century ‘dark age’ was reputedly a period when right-wing nationalists ruled the province and opposed the introduction of political or social modernity. Québec was almost exclusively portrayed, until recently, as a backward society governed by corrupt politicians, oppressed by the Catholic church and characterised by ethnic nationalism. Most of the contemporary interpretations of Québec as a backward society rest on Louis Hartz’s (1964) theory of ‘fragments’, but recent debates on identity and politics in Québec have challenged this approach (Bourque, Duchastel and Beauchemin 1994; Beauchemin 1997; Létourneau 2000; Cardinal 1999). Moreover, some scholars propose that there is a North American history common to Québec, Canada, and the United States, implying that politics in Québec have also recognised and reflected plurality and interactions with other societies and nations, processes from which the region was never isolated (Cuccioletta 2001). For others, the understanding of history, identity and politics in Québec should not be detached from the exchange of ideas characteristic

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Author details

Cardinal, Linda

Paquet, Gilles