Ephemeral Territories: Representing Nation, Home, and Identity in Canada

Ephemeral Territories: Representing Nation, Home, and Identity in Canada

Ephemeral Territories: Representing Nation, Home, and Identity in Canada

Ephemeral Territories: Representing Nation, Home, and Identity in Canada

Synopsis

What does it mean to be at home? In a critical engagement with notions of territory, identity, racial difference, separatism, multiculturalism, and homelessness, this book delves into the question of what it means to belong--in particular, what it means to be at home in Canada. Ephemeral Territories weaves together many narratives and representations of Canadian identity--from political philosophy and cultural theory to art and films such as Srinivas Krishna's Lulu, Clement Virgo's Rude, and Charles Biname's Eldorado--to develop and complicate familiar views of identity and selfhood. Canadian identity has historically been linked to a dual notion of culture traceable to the French and English strains of Canada's colonial past. Erin Managing subverts this binary through readings that shift our attention from nationalist constructions of identity and territory to a more radical and pluralizing understanding of the political. As she brings together issues specific to Canada (such as Quebec separatism and Canadian landscape painting) and concerns that are more transnational (such as globalization and immigration), Manning emphasizes the truly cross-cultural nature of the problems of racism, gender discrimination, and homelessness. Thus this impassioned reading of Canadian texts also makes an important contribution to philosophical, cultural, and political discourses across the globe.

Excerpt

What does it mean to be at home?

This text, which crosses boundaries both national and disciplinary, is about home. Through the figure of the home, I tell a story of the nation: Ephemeral Territories is my attempt to explore the unhomeliness within the familiar contours of the discourse of the nation-state. In a critical engagement with territory, identity, racial difference, immigration, separatism, multiculturalism, and homelessness, I delve into the question of what it means to belong.

This is both my history and that of others. It is mine insofar as it charts my discomforts in the face of the specter of home. It is mine insofar as it draws from the concept of the Unheimlich, an unhomely haunting that has accompanied me throughout my travels, both here and there. It is mine in the sense that I want to believe that not being “at home” in the traditional sense does not necessary belie the possibility of being accommodated. It is the story of others insofar as Ephemeral Territories delves into experiences beyond my grasp: stories of displacement, of immigration, of war, of separation. It is also the story of others insofar as its political inspiration is based on cross-cultural texts. I choose these texts not only because of their infinite read-ability, but because these texts-in-themaking are ephemeral gestures toward response-ability.

With any attempt to write a genealogy comes the risk of rewriting a history fraught with exclusions. In the case of Ephemeral Territories, what remains occluded is a reading of the native presence in Canada. This was brought to my attention in Hawai’i, where the native presence cannot be divorced from the politics “at home.” In Canada, this should be the case as well. Unfortunately, the sheer distances that separate people in Canada make it difficult to speak of any experience other than that of proximity.

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