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Negotiating Belonging in Global Times – Crosstalk

2011/03/17

Given this latest development in Quebec I have decided to share a paper written at the time of the Hérouxville controversy in 2007.

Quebec Mayor [Stéphane Gendron] reaches out to French-speaking Muslim immigrants Globe and Mail March 17 2011

Huntingdon: la «grande séduction» du maire Gendron La Presse 11 mars 2011

Negotiating Belonging in Global Times: The Hérouxville Debates | Diana Brydon

This paper investigates the “politics of visibility” (Ty) as they are engaged in what has come to be known as the Hérouxville controversy, sparked when a small town in Quebec published a list of standards instructing potential immigrants on the values of their town in January 2007. The incident received international attention for the inflammatory nature of these standards and prompted the premier of Quebec to launch a commission of inquiry into reasonable accommodation of cultural minorities (the Bouchard-Taylor Commission) as a result. Through a postcolonial reading of this media event and its aftermath, the paper analyzes how voice and vision function in influencing how citizenship is inhabited, contested, and negotiated in Canada today. I conclude that Hérouxville enacts a contest over claims to victimhood that is familiar to students of postcolonial history and discourse. The town’s actions “other” Muslims and English-Canada out of a sense that it is being “othered,” and consequently victimized, by these. In deriding and demonizing these concerns, without investigating them more carefully, English Canada risks reinforcing this spiral of competing victimhoods. Instead, ways must be found to break this cycle. These will include developing more nuanced critiques of “culturalism,” paying more attention to the role of autonomy, and considering the ways in which voice and vision interact within national and global imaginaries.

The complete paper will be published in Crosstalk: Canadian and Global Imaginaries in Dialogue edited by Diana Brydon and Marta Dvořák forthcoming August 2011

WORK IN PROGRESS: to be updated in response to new developments in 2010 and early 2011.

What are we doing when we express our concerns about immigration and foreignness through the bodies of women?” (Bonnie Honig 2001:65)

The epigraph to this paper asks a question that resonates throughout most discussions of globalization and culture. It assumed one of its many manifestations in the media controversy I am calling the Hérouxville debates. In January, 2007, a small town in Quebec posted a “declaration of norms for immigrants” on the town website, as their contribution to an ongoing controversy in the province regarding the accommodation of religious and cultural minorities. This act became a media event that in Canadian terms may be seen not only as comparable to the controversies linked to the Danish cartoons or French debates about the status of the veil, but also as a differently-inflected contribution to them. My argument in this paper is that what happened in Herouxville and the series of actions it prompted need to be read within translocal terms that recognize the complex ways in which stereotypes circulating globally are co-produced through multiple, very different locations. To read the code simply as a representation of small town Quebec values or to interpret the ensuing debates as merely another sign of Quebec’s distinctiveness within the Canadian mosaic, as many of the early commentaries did, is to miss much of what can be learned from this incident. Since none of the inhabitants of Herouxville were recent immigrants, many commentators wondered about the motivation behind this act. I argue here that as a local response to provincial, national, and global events, perceived through the town’s understanding of national pressures promoting multiculturalism, the Herouxville norms and the media storm they unleashed demonstrate how translocality works in global times.

This series of events presents a paradigmatic instance of cross-talk/cross-sighting as we have been elaborating them throughout this volume. The rest of this paper will unravel some of the interlocking features that characterized this event and its aftermath: the striking of a commission of inquiry, Commission de consultation sur les pratiques l’accommodement reliées aux différences culturelles or the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences (which I will cite as the Bouchard-Taylor Commission) by the government of Quebec, the public hearings the Commission launched, the Report it submitted, Building the Future: A Time for Reconciliation, and the media and academic discussions these actions prompted.

The draft chapter (pdf) may be consulted.

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