Quebec Studies

Book Reviews

Quebec Studies (1997), 24, (1), 219–235.


219 Book Reviews Cultural Studies ANCELOVICI, MARCOS, and FRANCIS DUPUIS-DERI, eds. L'Archipel identitaire: Recueil d'entretiens sur l'identité culturelle. Montréal: Boréal, 1997. Pp. 214. "En effet, l'identité culturelle est avant tout une construction symbolique qui trouve en partie ses racines dans la façon dont nous est conté ce que nous n'avons pas vécu directement. C'est à travers l'histoire, l'art et les médias que nous avons accès à une mémoire qui nous permet de faire le lien entre le passé et le présent, et que nous nous sentons appartenir à une communauté dont nous ne connaissons pourtant pas tous les membres." With five general themes empha­ sized—multi-nationalism, nationalism, language, art, and religion, the editors of this very interesting text explore the important question of ambiguous iden­ tity in today's world. They approach their subject by interviews with two groups of contemporary intellectuals: six theorists whom they call "les cartographes de l'identité," and five writers referred to as "les voyageurs de l'identité." Several of the conversations discuss the complex matter of the situation of Québec within Canada, and others make specific reference to Judaism. The interviews are fol­ lowed by a dialogue between the two editors in which they review what they have learned and make some associations with their own lives. The entire work makes extremely pleasurable and thought-provoking reading. Charles Taylor opens the discussion with his comments on the dynamic of the construction of identity and its political consequences. Defining identity as where one stands in reference to moral and spiritual questions and stating that one's civic/national identity is more important than the cultural, Taylor also feels that English Canadians fear Québécois differences because they perceive them as endangering their own global Canadian identity. Speaking of the dual heritage of the Enlightenment and the romantic tradition, Alain Finkielkraut severely judges the effort made on university campuses, especially in the U.S., toward multiculturalism. He warns, for example, that substituting the criterion of "représentativité" for beauty, truth, and knowledge can create an atmosphere favorable to antisemitism. One of the most cogent interviews in this text is with Liah Greenfeld who believes that national/civic and ethnic identities are cul­ tural and social constructs, psychological necessities that must be explained his­ torically. She defines three historical entities in the U.S.: one based on class or religion during the first half of the nineteenth century; the national and ethnic immigration of the second half of that century; the focus since the 1960s on sexual and racial identity. Similarly cogent and emotional are the remarks of Jean Larose who focuses on Québec, which he sees as necessarily moving from political sovereignty to a universal "souveraineté de la pensée." For Larose, each person possesses an identity in continual transformation where ultimately there are no marginal individuals and groups, since each margin becomes the center, revolting against the past. Completing this first half of the text are the commentaries by Philip Resnick who also sees the necessity of English Canada constructing its own identity in order to survive a separation with Québec, and Georges Sioui who identifies points of convergence and difference between the aboriginal peoples and Canadian, Québécois, and North American identities.

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Author details

Gilbert, Paula