Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Canoe Nation: Nature, Race, and the Making of a Canadian Icon

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Canoe Nation: Nature, Race, and the Making of a Canadian Icon

Article excerpt

Bruce Erickson, Canoe Nation: Nature, Race, and the Making of a Canadian Icon (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2013), 252 pp. 12 b&w photos. Cased. $95. ISBN 978-0-7748-2248-0. Paper. $32.95. ISBN 978-0-7748-2249-7.

Bruce Erickson disturbs the still waters and pristine imagery of a classic Canadian icon with this incisive study of the canoe. Through an examination of the canoe as a mode of recreation and political activism, Erickson overturns this seemingly benign national symbol to reveal its role in creating and sustaining a hegemonic national narrative in Canada. While many scholars have studied the canoe as a mode of transportation, as a recreational vehicle, or as a prop for Canada's national identity, Erickson paddles further up the headwaters to demonstrate how the image of the canoe shapes a specific narrative of Canada that reinforces power relationships of race and class.

Erickson's analysis is firmly anchored in cultural theory. The book rests heavily on the shoulders of Foucault and Bhabha, as well as Marx and Freud, and Erickson carries their theories on power and cultural production deep into the Canadian landscape. While he employs diverse theoretical frameworks in successive case studies, each chapter analyses a different aspect of canoe culture in Canada to demonstrate how the country is imagined as a space criss-crossed by lakes and rivers and navigable from end to end by canoe. The transformation of the canoe into a recreational craft means that the experience of interacting with the nation in its natural state is enjoyed primarily by the leisured class, while also allowing settlers to affirm their identity by experiencing the self-reliance of Indigenous peoples without becoming Indigenous themselves. …

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