Who Is 'We'? an Exploratory Study of the Notion of "The Majority" and Cultural Policy

By Pietrantonio, Linda | Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

Who Is 'We'? an Exploratory Study of the Notion of "The Majority" and Cultural Policy


Pietrantonio, Linda, Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal


ABSTRACT/RESUE

This study of Quebec's cultural policy examines the place of cultural diversity within the institutional discourse on culture. Drawing on an analytical framework that focusses on the "majority" category, the research questions the relative treatment of majority and minority groups in this discourse. The article provides a perspective that can be used to identify the analytical links between the development of a normative pluralism in Quebec, on the one hand, and the social parameters of the majority category, on the other.

La presente etude examine la place de la diversite culturelle au sein du discours institutionnel sur la culture, principalement a partir des politiques de la culture au Quebec depuis 1961. A partir d'un cadre d'analyse centre sur l'examen de la categorie majoritaire - dont l'analyse demeure parcellaire en sociologic - on se demande si la diversite concerne tant le groupe majoritaire que les groupes minoritaires. Dans l'ensemble, il s'agit d'une perspective qui vise cerner les liens et les elements d'analyse a etablir entre le developpement d'un pluralisme normatif au Quebec et les parametres sociaux de la categorie majoritaire.

INTRODUCTION

This study situates diversity as it appears in institutional discourse about culture, using the notion of "majority" as its main analytical tool. It approaches the interethnic dynamic in Quebec society via the notion of culture as it appears in cultural policies produced by Quebec's ministere de la Culture et des Communications (1) since that department's creation. The focus is on the institutional and ideological dimensions of majority/minority social relations, and more specifically, on normative pluralism. How plural identities appear at the institutional level is one important aspect, while another is assessing to what extent the value placed on plural identities affects both majority and minority groups.

Following the transformation of the intercthnic dynamics of Quebec's society that marked the late 1970s, the notion of culture has come to occupy an important place in the definition of the Quebecois nationalistic project. In Quebec, French Canadians (more commonly designated "Quebecois" since the 1960s) have become a sociological majority (2) in recent decades, a period when Quebec society has become more ethnically diverse than ever (see Piche, this issue). Examining Quebec's cultural policies, as well as the way culture is defined institutionally and how such policies relate to diversity, offers a promising research focus for analyzing the notion of majority and outlining its main parameters. At present, I am not aware of any study that looks at cultural policies as a field for the study of normative pluralism. But as Handler (1988) has noted, cultural policies are associated with promoting a certain uniformity at the national level. These policies are likely to present an idealized social portrait of the nation whose traits are deemed worthy of being cherished and promoted.

Furthermore, the institutional field of culture is now taking on wider significance on a global level. Culture and the sphere of education are seen to need protection from the effects of globalization by many governments. Since 1998, following the path opened by the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, a network of ministers of culture from around the world (3) has been created, its mandate being to protect cultural diversity from the threat believed to accompany the process of globalization. One of the first priorities identified by this network is to reject the notion that culture should be considered a commodity, as that is likely to give rise to cultural homogenization. One can argue that international diversity, as promoted by this network, is part and parcel of diversity within nations. If cultural policy is seen as an international tool for promoting and protecting the world's cultural diversity, does this imply that only what is thought of as the culture of a nation should be promoted? …

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