Quebec Studies

From Habitant to Cultivateur: The Rural Quebecer

Quebec Studies (1983), 1, (1), 87–95.


From Habitant to Cultivateur: The Rural Quebecer Peter Woolfson In 1939, Horace Miner published his classic study of rural Quebec, St. Denk: A French-Canadian Parish. I t was an ethnographic study of the old, rural French Canadian folk culture long associated with the outside world’s image of Quebec. Robert Redfield in his introduction to the text described this culture as habitant-a peasant society. The peasant in Redfield’s interpretation straddles two worlds: the close association of family and neighbors, and the modern urbanized world. The agent which kept the French Canadian in balance between these two worlds was the Catholic church: She has stood between the changing world and the habitant, preventing the admission of elements which she condemns and interpreting admitted elements in accordance with the faith of the local culture. . . . The church provides sacred justifications and explanations for the necessary toil of the native, offers rituals to carry the individual from birth to death, and supports and sanctifies the large-family system.’ Philippe Garigue and others have objected to Redfield’s description of Quebec as a “peasant” or “folk” society. He maintains that Quebec was always a commercial and urban society. Nevertheless, the culture described by Miner was the one which symbolized for many French-Canadians before 1960, the “real Quebec.” With the Quiet Revolution that characterization of French Canada lost its validity as Quebec rushed into modernity under the motto of Maitre chez nous. Nevertheless, the farming tradition described by Miner has a long history in Quebec and forms the backbone of many traditional values and patterns of today’s Qukbkcois. An assumption

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Author details

Woolfson, Peter