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

By Monica Heller | Go to book overview

6
Neoliberalism and La cause

Modernizing Nationalism at Its Limits (Lelac, 1997–2004)

6.1 THE MILIEU ASSOCIATIF AS DISCURSIVE SPACE

By the time I was ready to take a look at the network of institutions and volunteer associations known as the milieu associatif, it was quite welldeveloped. Building on the political lobbying associations of the French Canadian traditionalist elite and the social, charitable associations they founded (see chapter 3), francophone activists in the 1960s and 1970s took seriously Raymond Breton’s (1964) injunction to develop “institutional completeness.” In this they were aided and abetted by the federal government’s construction of the francophone community as one of two pillars of “linguistic duality.” The network had spread through Quebec and across the so-called milieu minoritaire and comprised what was left of older institutions like the Church, schools, social clubs, and political lobbying associations; and newer ones like associations of francophone gays and lesbians, immigrants, and recording artists.

As a result, we attended community consultations and assemblies and went to local chambers of commerce, credit unions, insurance companies, professional conferences, state activities, a tremendous number of committee meetings, spectacles of various kinds, festivals, shops, more schools, markets, government agencies, restaurants, cemeteries, churches, arenas, daycare centers, health clinics, radio stations, seniors’ residences, fishing docks, cultural centers, artists’ workshops, literacy centers, libraries, bookstores, transportation hubs; to associations devoted to seniors, children, sports, and businesspeople; even, when it was absolutely necessary, to beaches—but in case you get the wrong idea, let me assure you that this fieldwork has also involved a lot of scraping ice off windshields. We heard masses, a space opera, political speeches, all kinds of music, committee deliberations, radio and television broadcasts; we read legislation, reports, grant applications, local newspapers, advertisements, minutes of meetings. We met hundreds of generous people and didn’t get lost as often as you might expect.

Much of this work has been reported in French, in edited collections bringing together thematically linked papers by team members working

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