Sustaining the Nation: The Making and Moving of Language and Nation

Sustaining the Nation: The Making and Moving of Language and Nation

Sustaining the Nation: The Making and Moving of Language and Nation

Sustaining the Nation: The Making and Moving of Language and Nation

Synopsis

This book is an ethnography of labor mobility and its challenges to the idea of the nation. Using the example of francophone Canada, it examines how social difference - race, ethnicity, language, gender - has been used to sort out who must (or can) be mobile and who must (or can) remain in place in the organization of global circulation of human and natural resources. It argues that "francophone Canada" can best be understood as an ethno class category that has embedded francophones into specific forms of labor mobility since the beginnings of European colonization, even as their social difference has been constructed as national in the interests of gaining political power. The result has been an erasure both of francophone mobilities and of their contribution to the rooted community that lies at the heart of the idea of the nation, and of francophone capacity to resist economic marginalization and exploitation. By following French Canadian workers back and forth between eastern and central Canada and the frontiers of the Canadian northwest, Sustaining the Nation explores how contemporary forms of labor mobility make it increasingly difficult for national structures and discourses to produce the francophonenation. By following the ideological tensions between language as a skill and language as a marker of belonging, the authors present grounded evidence of how the globalized new economy challenges the nation-state, and how mobilities and immobilities are co-constructed.

Excerpt

Dwelling was understood to be the local ground of collective life, travel a supplement; roots always precede routes. But what would happen … if travel were untethered, seen as a complex or pervsive spectrum of human experiences? Practices of displacement might emerge as constitutive of cultural meaning rather than as their simple transfer or extension. … Cultural centers, discrete regions and territories, do not exist prior to contacts but are sustained through them, appropriating and disciplining the restless movements of people and things (Clifford 1997:3).

1.1 MOBILITIES AND MOORINGS

In the summer of 2009, we went to a small town in northeastern New Brunswick, called Shippagan. We were there to attend a big event for a small place: the Congrès mondial acadien, or, in English, the Acadian World Congress, usually referred to as the CMA. This event, held every five years since 1994 in a different place, aims to bring together and celebrate a linguistic minority group called “Acadians,” siblings of the Louisiana Cajuns, cousins of the Québécois—all now dispersed descendants of the first . . .

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