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Other Settlers, Settling Others: The Contest over ‘Nativeness’ in Quebec’s Intercultural Debate

2012/01/15

Bruno Cornellier speaks at Native Studies Colloqium University of Manitoba

In their influential work on settler colonialism, Patrick Wolfe and Lorenzo Veracini explained that settler societies are not only predicated upon the structural elimination of Indigenous societies, but also on a historical trajectory culminating in settler colonialism’s own self-suppression. This accounts for recent scholarly efforts to deconstruct rhetorical and discursive attempts to represent our multicultural, settler societies as not colonial anymore. In Québec, the situation is even more complex because the francophone majority, on account of its declared state of minorityhood on a continental level, has not only disassociate itself from settler colonialism per se, but its own claims over identity, home, and nationhood appear not to require the rhetorical suppression of a colonial legacy. It is in such context that Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor, in their publicly commissioned Report on cultural difference and accommodation practices, defined interculturalism as an alternative to official forms of multiculturalism. In this paper, I argue that, by attempting to theorize the acquired status of a racially neutral concept of ‘Nativeness’, such an understanding of interculturalism completes the political erasure of the settler colonial specificity of Québec’s claim to nationhood and minorityhood.

Hence, despite statements that, in the spirit of a nation-to-nation dialogue, the Report should refrain from addressing concerns relative to indigenous people, I demonstrate that Bouchard and Taylor’s brand of interculturalism is nonetheless predicated on a settler colonial poetics of indigeneity in which the multipartite struggle over ‘Nativeness’ necessitates the paradoxical neutralization of indigenous status.

Bruno Cornellier has recently completed a PhD dissertation in the Joint Doctorate in Communication at Concordia University (Montréal). His postdoctoral research project explores the ways that settler sovereignty is articulated in Canada, Québec, and the U.S. through conflicting narratives of indigeneity that simultaneously put settler colonialism under erasure. Building on the author’s current research on Indigenous media and representations in Canada, this project proposes to also include new, non-Canadian locales, as well as other, non-Native minority groups who have so far been only marginally discussed in terms of their position within the specifically settler colonial projects of multicultural or multiethnic nationhood.

As a cultural critic and a media scholar, Cornellier’s analyses are rooted in the interdisciplinary and methodologically rich field of cultural studies. The predominantly critical and analytic work that he proposes to conduct seeks to illustrate how discourses and representations about race, indigeneity, and foreignness are being produced and disseminated in (and between) a series of cultural texts and practices (from cinema, literature and television to political speeches, advertisement, consumer culture, and the Law). By doing so, this type of analysis shall draw connections between these varied and eclectic textual practices and the larger historical and discursive fields that inform how knowledge and power circulate locally and globally. Such analysis is meant to contribute to more pragmatic critical interventions that are setting up informed strategies of resistance and political actions.

This research is made available through the Programme de bourse postdoctorale of the Fonds québécois de recherche sur la société et la culture (FQRSC). Cornellier’s research project takes advantage of Centre facilities supported by CFI, the Manitoba Government and the Canada Research Chairs Program

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