Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Transmitting Pluralism: Mixed Unions in Montreal

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Transmitting Pluralism: Mixed Unions in Montreal

Article excerpt


This research concerns mixed unions in Montreal, particularly the intergenerational transmission of identities and forms of social belonging among young parents (under thirty-five years of age). "Mixedness" is examined as a social construct that varies by social and historical context. While questioning classical notions about such unions, whereby they are presented as the final stage in the assimilation process, these unions are looked at here as an important point of interethnic contact and as a key to understanding identity issues in the wider society. A pilot study reveals "identity projects," i.e., parents' aspirations regarding the ethnic (and religious) identity of their children and the strategies that they deploy in this regard (e.g. regarding names, religious initiation, travel, language classes, contact with the kinship network, etc.). Such projects and strategies are oriented toward multiple identities, affiliations, and cultural referents and are framed in a strongly pluralist ideology by the Que becois partners in these unions.

Notre recherche concerne les unions mixtes en mileu Montrealais, et plus particulierement la transmission inter-generationelle des identites et des formes d'appartenance. L'enquete est centree sur les jeunes parents (trente-cinq ans ou moms). La mixite est abordee en tant construction sociale, variable selon le contexte sociale et historique. Tout en questionnant les approches classiques qui font des unions mixtes l'ultime etape d'un processus d'assimilation, nous les presentons comme un point de contact interethnique important. Elles constituent aussi un phenomene clef dans la comprehension des enjeux identitaires au niveau societal. Une etude pilote a fait etat de ce que nous nommons des << projets identitaires >>, soit les aspirations qu'ont les parents l'egard de l'eventuel identite ethnique (et religieuse) de leurs enfants et les strategies qu'ils deploient cet effet (par ex., noms, prenoms, initiation religieuse, voyages, cours de langue, contacts avec les reseaux de parente etc.). Ces projets et strateg ies sont encadres dans une ideologie pluraliste tres affirmee chez les partenaires Quebecois de ces unions.


The research (1) presented here concerns mixed unions between Francophone Quebecois adults (aged twenty to thirty-five years) and partners of minority backgrounds who have spent at least part of their childhood in Montreal. Data show that parents in such unions develop what we call "identity projects" for their children; i.e., aspirations about the child's ethnic identity as well as strategies oriented toward inculcating or reinforcing certain aspects of that identity. Such projects are generally plural in nature and orient parental strategies regarding, for example, language learning and use, religion, and other aspects of socialization.

Though difficult to define in any rigourous way, mixed unions are the subject of a sizeable, but rather fragmented, social scientific literature (Le Gall, in press). Most studies focus on the couple dynamic and direct relatively little attention to intergenerational transmission. Moreover, research has largely focussed on the problems and conflicts likely to be generated in this type of union, typically seen as "nonnormative."

The focus of this research is the intergenerational transmission of culture and identity in such unions. While arguing that such unions are in no way indicative of an "assimilation" process leading to the disappearance of minority cultures and identities, they are nonetheless seen as constituting an important point of interethnic contact. This research focusses on the following: 1) it examines the notion of parental identity projects: i.e., what they consist of and in what kinds of situations they emerge; 2) it decribes such projects among young parents in ethnicially mixed unions; and 3) it explores what these couples can tell us about identities and mixedness, particularly as they appear in present-day Montreal. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.