Anxious identity and the challenges of diversity: understanding Quebec's national identity debate

Date

2019-08-30

Authors

Gnanasihamany, Stephen

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Abstract

This research seeks to understand how Québec governments have constructed the relation between national identity and cultural diversity from the 1960s’ Quiet Revolution to the 2010s by analyzing the discursive and historical dynamics that have shaped Québec identity politics in this period. First, it clarifies how national identity and cultural diversity are symbolically constructed in relation to one another by analyzing three key discursive lenses that have shaped the construction of national identity and cultural diversity in Québec since the Quiet Revolution, namely nationalism, pluralism, and secularism. These lenses offer different interpretations of the identity-diversity problematic, suggesting competing imperatives that social actors must balance against one another when constructing the relation between national identity and cultural diversity. Second, this research examines how state actors in Québec have mobilized these lenses through policy initiatives and discursive strategies and tried to influence how members of their community think about national identity and respond to cultural diversity. Québec governments’ approaches to diversity management have shifted significantly in this period, from promoting the French language and intercultural integration in the mid- to late-20th century to focusing on religious difference and rigid secularism in the early 21st century. Contributors to this shift include increasing nationalist anxieties through the 1990s, followed by the reasonable accommodation debate and the Bouchard-Taylor Commission in the 2000s. This analysis highlights the challenges that sub-state nationalists face when constructing the relation between national identity and cultural diversity, including the need to manage the cultural anxieties of the majority group.

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Keywords

Quebec, nationalism, pluralism, secularism, national identity, cultural diversity

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