Quebec Studies

Book Reviews

Quebec Studies (2010), 50, (1), 149–157.


149 Book Reviews Edited by Patrice Proulx History, Culture, and Politics HENDERSON, ALISA. Hierarchies of Belonging: National Identity and Political Culture in Scotland and Quebec. Montreal & Kingston: Mc-Gill-Queen's UP, 2007. Pp250. ISBN 978-0-7735-3268-7 In Hierarchies of Belonging, Henderson takes a multifaceted approach to the study of nationalism. Combining historical, cultural, and public opinion re­ search, the book presents a wide array of data to address classic issues such as the political and cultural utility of nationalism and the difference between civic and ethnic nationalism. Additionally, the work addresses the inherent tension involved in nested, or hierarchical, identities. How do individuals and communities make sense of the various commitments and loyalties that compete for their attention? Henderson does a good job of mixing several approaches to investigate the complexities of these identities. The book is based on three main questions. First, why is Quebec na­ tionalism often portrayed as predominantly ethnic, while Scottish national­ ism is seen as civic? Second, why does nationalism seem to have minimal influence on political attitudes when they are measured quantitatively? Third, why do people continue to believe that the difference in political atti­ tudes is strong, even in the presence of contrary evidence? Henderson contests ideas of simple civic or ethnic nationalism, ex­ amining two basic debates. First is whether the nation should be viewed as a list of characteristics or as a shared sociological entity. The second debate focuses on viewing identity as a label or as a process of attachment. Hen­ derson explores the complexities of Scottish and Québec nationalism to demonstrate that both of these debates could be better approached by real­ izing that each perspective captures part of the phenomenon but remains incomplete. Using different methods and addressing different facets of nationalism provides a better sense of how nationalism is formed and plays out in people's lives. Providing some interesting demographic, electoral, and public opinion data, Henderson examines how nationalism enters into the politi­ cal culture in Québec and Scotland, giving a good amount of contextual de­ tail to make sense of the data. In the demographic analysis, Henderson stays very close to characteristics that have traditionally been used to define nations, with special emphasis on language, ethnicity, economics, and reli­ gion. With electoral data, Henderson demonstrates that Québec often pro­ vided the votes necessary to push a party over the top into government. The rise of the Bloc Québécois, however, greatly diminished the representa­ tion of Québec within the government — and this could have interesting implications for both the future of Québec nationalism and Canadian fed­ eral politics. In contrast to Québec voters, Scottish voters differ more from

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Author details

Proulx, Patrice