Newcomers and Old-Timers: The Cultural Production of "Canada" and "Canadians" in an Audio-Visual Text

By Moffatt, Lyndsay | Canadian Journal of Education, November 2011 | Go to article overview

Newcomers and Old-Timers: The Cultural Production of "Canada" and "Canadians" in an Audio-Visual Text


Moffatt, Lyndsay, Canadian Journal of Education


This paper examines the cultural production of "Canada" and "Canadians" in The Newcomers, a 1953 film produced by the National Film Board of Canada. Using a form of discourse analysis that sees talk as social interaction and identity as socially and locally constructed, this study illuminates how "Canada" and "Canadians" are talked into being in a film ostensibly about immigration and immigrants. While illustrating the moment-to-moment construction of these social identities in this specific context, this study also illustrates how ethnomethodological tools could be used to critically analyze the production of ideologies and identities in audio-visual media. Specific attention is paid to the marginalization of Aboriginal peoples in this governmental text.

Key words: Aboriginal Peoples, Canada, Cultural Production, Ethnomethodology, Identity, Indigenous peoples, Immigration, National Film Board, Talk as Social Interaction.

Ce document examine la production culturelle du <> et des <> dans The Newcomers, un film de 1953 produit par l'office national du film du Canada. En utilisant une forme d'analyse du discours qui considere la parole comme une interaction sociale, et l'identite comme socialement et localement construite, cette etude met en lumiere comment le <> et les <> sont persuades de jouer dans un film soi-disant sur l'immigration et les immigrants. Tout en illustrant etape par etape la construction de ces identites sociales dans ce contexte specifique, cette etude illustre egalement comment des outils ethnomethodologiques pourraient etre utilises pour analyser de maniere critique la fabrication des ideologies et des identites dans les medias audiovisuels. Une attention particuliere est portee sur la marginalisation des peuples autochtones dans ce texte gouvernemental.

Mots-cles : peuples autochtones, Canada, production culturelle, ethnomethodologie, identite, immigration, office national du film, la parole comme interaction sociale.

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In any specific context, categorizations and the construction of similarity and difference can be treated as situated boundary work (Horton-Salway, 2001; p.147).

We could say that what dominant groups basically own is how it is that we see reality, and that there's an order of revolution which is an attempt to change how it is that persons see reality (Sacks, 1992; p. 398).

Introduction

From the time of first contact to the present day, issues of place and identity have haunted Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in North America. Questions concerning the legitimacy or illegitimacy of newcomers' use of resources, their potential contributions or strains on existing systems, and definitions of citizenship have dogged every foray that non-Indigenous settlers have made into Native land. While Canada is not the first, or the only, nation to struggle with issues of colonialism, as a relatively young nation--and as a nation that has in many ways grown up with motion pictures--it holds a unique position in the history of nation-building and global migration. Unlike many other nations, discussions of what it means to be a Canadian and representations of Indigenous people can be found in both documentary and fictional films since the turn of the 20th Century (Melnyk, 2004). Indeed, the very earliest films recorded in Canada were made by a Manitoba farmer, in the late 1890s and were used by the Canadian Pacific Railway to help promote immigration from the United Kingdom. The first dramatic film made in Canada was Hiawatha the Messiah of the Ojibway, a dramatized reading of a poem by Longfellow produced in 1903. While neither of these original films have survived to the present day, many other films concerning Canada's struggles with place, legitimacy, Indigeneity and identity are readily available for study thanks to the ongoing work of the National Film Board (www. …

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