Paths to Post-Nationalism: A Critical Ethnography of Language and Identity

By Monica Heller | Go to book overview

3
La foi, la race, la langue

Catholic Ethnonationalism in Francophone Canada
(1926–1965, with an Interjection from 2000)

3.1 DISCURSIVE AND INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

In the spring of 1998, I went with several members of our team to do fieldwork in Welland. We were trying to understand the development of francophone institutions there, in the context of the community’s working-class history. One evening, two members of the team, Normand Labrie and Carsten Quell, left a message for the rest of us, saying that they had been invited by someone they had interviewed that day to attend the monthly dinner for a francophone, men-only charitable and social club. They came back later that evening with secret handshakes and a story about L’Ordre de Jacques Cartier (hereafter OJC; also known as La Patente).

It is not surprising that it had not occurred to us to think about the order before; it was a male Catholic nationalist secret society that had disbanded in 1965. We were all too young, most of us too female, and many of us not French Canadian enough for it to have impinged on our consciousness in our own life experiences. Those of us who grew up in Canada had been taught the thesis of the radical rupture of the 1960s, when the so-called Quiet Revolution supposedly broke Quebec off from its conservative Catholic past and from the rest of francophone Canada. We had not expected to run into the conservative Catholic past in Welland, especially not in conjunction with contemporary institutions.

The door Carsten and Normand opened for us (and it had to be them; they were the only pair of men on the team working together that day) led to an exploration of the ways in which the institutions producing the traditionalist discourse of francophone Canada in fact laid the groundwork for the modernization that followed. That modernization was connected to a discursive shift (to the modernist nationalism we had grown up with) now becoming destabilized by the kinds of massive layoffs Welland’s francophone industrial workers were then experiencing.

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