Textualizing the Immigrant Experience in Contemporary Quebec

Textualizing the Immigrant Experience in Contemporary Quebec

Textualizing the Immigrant Experience in Contemporary Quebec

Textualizing the Immigrant Experience in Contemporary Quebec

Synopsis

This is the first comprehensive study in English of the post-war literature of immigration in Quebec. It examines the literary representation of immigration as it relates to those who have moved to Quebec from such areas as the Caribbean, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. Through this focus on immigration, the essays raise a series of questions related to gender, cultural pluralism, identity politics, and narrative forms. One of the key objectives is to consider the ways in which the literary texts portray the concept of immigrant culture and shape debates about Quebec's national and cultural identity. The book explores how these texts re-imagine and redefine problematic issues related to the immigrant experience.

"Textualizing the Immigrant Experience in Contemporary Quebec" by Patrice J. Proulx and Susan Ireland is a cross-disciplinary work that will be of interest to scholars of French and francophone literature, cultural studies, the history of immigration, Canadian studies, and the literature of exile. The essays in this volume examine the ways in which the appearance of this contemporary corpus has led to a modification of critical categories, as scholars have sought ways to conceptualize this new body of literature.

Excerpt

Susan Ireland and Patrice J. Proulx

Recent years have seen a growing emphasis on the topic of immigration in a wide variety of disciplines, from history and economics to sociology and postcolonial studies, as countries in many parts of the world deal with the phenomenon of mass migration. Canada, long known as a country favorable to immigration, especially since World War II, implemented its Multiculturalism Act in 1971, seeking to privilege the idea of a cultural “mosaic” in order to preserve the heritage of the different ethnic groups within its borders. Within the French-speaking province of Quebec, the number of ethnic minorities has increased dramatically over the last few decades, as large numbers of immigrants have moved there for economic, political, or personal reasons. Although the vast majority of the inhabitants of Montreal (98%) were of French or British descent at the end of the nineteenth century (Hathorn 109), the makeup of the population began to change in the early years of the twentieth century with the arrival of Jews from Eastern Europe. Subsequent waves of immigrants have further contributed to the diversification of the population: a great many Italians came to Quebec in the 1940s and 1950s, Haitians seeking to escape the Duvalier regime arrived in the 1960s and 1970s, and the arrival of refugees from Vietnam reached a peak in 1979, accounting for 20 percent of all immigrants at that time.

In Quebec, the influx of large numbers of immigrants coincided with the province’s transition from a primarily rural culture to an industrialized society, thus creating a multiethnic urban population. Consequently, Montreal in particular has become a racially and ethnically diverse city: almost nine out of ten immigrants living in the province of Quebec reside there. Significantly, more than a third of these immigrants are of neither French nor Anglo-Celt descent (Labelie and Salée 280), and in 1997 it was estimated that by the year 2000, 50 percent of the pupils attending Montreal-area schools would be of non-French origin (Moisan and Hildebrand 24). This development has led over the years to a rethinking of the traditional notion of two founding peoples and of the corresponding concept of the . . .

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