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

By Monica Heller | Go to book overview

8
Paths to Post-Nationalism

8.1 LEAKING META-COMMENTARY

In August 2005, I went with Mireille McLaughlin, Sonya Malaborza, and Mary Richards to Caraquet, a town in northeastern New Brunswick that has always thought of itself as the capital of Acadie, although it now has to fight off the rivalry of upstart Moncton.

Since 2005 was the 250th anniversary of le Grand Dérangement, the deportation of Acadians by the British, it seemed like a good year to check out how history was being constructed, especially in the place that constructed itself as the authentic home of Acadian nationalism. It is the base of many Acadian institutions. Indeed, the OJC had been strong there (it was where we had interviewed Henri in 1998). The almost exclusively francophone regional population has long lived off the sea and the forest. One local institution is the Festival acadien, held in the weeks around the Acadian national holiday, the feast day of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption on August 15. Most Acadian towns have one, but Caraquet’s has gained a special reputation.

The 250th anniversary edition promised to be particularly rich. But as soon as we got there we noticed something was up. We went to the historical pageant on the site of the nearby living-history museum. It had exactly the same structure as the one in eastern Ontario (Malaborza and McLaughlin 2008), only the narrative kept getting interrupted by ironic postmodernism. People still stood up to sing the Ave Stella Maris (more or less the Acadian national anthem), but then a segment on the OJC featured guys in 1950s suits, with slicked-back hair and sunglasses, and made fun of the secrecy that had been so sacred to the order: “Y’a des poignées de main secrètes/des rendez-vous en cachette /La patente/ pour ne plus avoir de dettes/on a trouvé la recette /La patente” (There are secret handshakes/and secret meetings/La patente/to free ourselves of debt/we have found the recipe/La patente; Richard 2005). We saw the arrival of Champlain, the harmony with the indigenous population, the trauma of the deportation, the consciousness-raising of the conventions nationales of the early 1880s. We saw the political struggles of the 1960s and 1970s. And then at the end we were told: “Il n’y a pas de vérité /il n’y a que des histoires/suffit de les raconter/c’est à chacun d’y

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