From: Eleni Sideri <eliej73yahoo.gr>
Subject: Language, Citizenship and Identity in Quebec
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/17/17-3493.html
Authors: Oakes, Leigh and Warren, Jane
Title: Language, Citizenship and Identity in Quebec
Series: Language and Globalization
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Eleni Sideri, Department of Communication, New York University Skopje,
F.Y.R.O.M, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Thessaly.
_Language, Citizenship and Identity in Quebec_ is an analysis of how Quebec
faces the challenges of globalization (migrations, multiculturalism,
economic and political interconnectedness) by developing a sense of
belonging that goes beyond the unitary relation between language (French)
and national identity. This aspiration has become for the inhabitants of
Quebec the context upon which a new idea of citizenship seems to be
debated, which tries to balance between the cultural legacy of the past and
new legal principles. The study of the shifting relations between language
and identity is methodologically done through primary and secondary sources
including mostly official texts, academic works and media (press)
publications. The body of the book consists of ten chapters in total
divided in three parts.
The first chapter is an introduction where the authors give an overview of
their purposes and methodology. They also underline their comparative
approach that combines sociolinguistics with political philosophy and
sociology. They also introduce briefly, but with clarity, their theoretical
premises regarding the key concepts of their study, such as ethnicity,
nationalism, globalization and citizenship.
Chapter two opens Part I that illustrates how the transition from a
strictly ethnic idea of citizenship to a civic one was shaped in the
socio-political life of Quebec. The chapter follows the history of this
transition so as that the readers of the book can see the gradual shift
from ethnicity to more civic ideas of political membership. The authors
discuss the concepts of citizenship that have dominated political thought
(the liberal one, which stresses individual rights and the civic republican
one, which focuses on the idea of a common culture). They then examine the
problems behind these concepts that have led to the demand for a gradual
formation of a new and unique model of citizenship -- that of intercultural
Chapter three examines the idea of nation through the three models that
have been, and to an extent, are still debated in Quebec (an ethnic model,
a civic model and a compromise between the two). Apart from a critical
evaluation of these models, the chapter closes with the authors' own
position regarding what seems the best answer for Quebec's context, which
aspires to a synthesis of ethnic and civic preoccupations.
The fourth chapter discusses the position of Quebec in the world scene. It
illustrates how globalization was considered as a fresh start for a
non-sovereign nation such as Quebec. The chapter studies Quebec's politics
vis-à-vis the international arena, in particular, its position -- political
and linguistic -- in relation to the U.S. and the French-speaking world (la
Francophonie). What the chapter stresses is that Quebec sees the Global and
the Local not as oppositional poles, but as a chance to reinforce the
latter through co-operations that extend on the global scene.
Chapter five introduces Part II, which focuses on more linguistic issues
through the questions of language and corpus planning. Chapter five studies
Quebec's official language policy from the 1960s up to the present. The
authorities seem to encourage and promote French as the language that might
enhance the social opportunities (status planning) of all Quebecers, but
especially immigrants, whose number in Quebec is increasing.
Chapter six discusses the debate concerning the quality and variety of
French spoken in Quebec. The chapter describes the history of this debate,
which has origins in the linguistic insecurity that many French-speaking
inhabitants of Quebec have felt due to negative stereotypes attached to
their language in the past. The chapter underlines how a new linguistic
approach that celebrates variety and plurality seems more compatible with
the civic project of citizenship that Quebec promotes.
Chapter seven introduces the last part of the book, Part III, which
examines the three most important non-francophone groups living in Quebec
(the immigrants, the Anglophones and the aboriginal nations) and what kind
of relations they have developed with French language and Quebec itself.
Chapter seven centres on the relations that immigrant groups have developed
to Quebec though French, and discusses the extent to which French has
become the language of the home. The authors present the factors that have
contributed to the attachment to Quebec, and in particular Montreal, that
these groups have developed through their linguistic choices. The authors
then examine different generations of immigrants and illustrate how
bilingualism or multilingualism seems to be becoming the dominant trend in
Chapter eight examines the relation of the Anglophone inhabitants of Quebec
with French and the French-speaking majority. The authors underline the
difficulty in delineating the boundaries of this Anglophone community
because of its diverse background. In addition, the chapter illustrates the
perceptions of the French-speaking majority concerning their
English-speaking co-citizens and how these perceptions have caused problems
in the acceptance of Anglophones as true Quebecers -- something that seems
to be slowly shifting.
Chapter nine discusses the variety of Aboriginal nations living in Quebec
and their official linguistic rights. The chapter stresses the fact that
the aboriginal nations treat dominant languages such as French and English
with great skepticism, resulting from concerns about aboriginal nations'
linguistic and ethnic survival. As a result, any linguistic form of
planning for these groups should be combined with further measures related
to the strengthening of their status and participation in Quebec's politics.
The final chapter concludes that it is difficult to predict the extent to
which the civic project of an intercultural citizenship in Quebec could
satisfy the needs of all Quebecers despite their ethnic origins. The
chapter calls attention to several issues: The limited appeal of this
civic model to some immigrants, the issues of variety and quality of
language, the recognition of the importance of ethnicity for
French-Canadians and the needs of the Anglophone and aboriginal minorities.
The authors suggest that all these issues should be taken into further
consideration before any final resolution. They underline that Quebec's
case could offer modern states its continual reflection regarding the
future of French and the need for a new form of political membership that
includes all its diverse citizens.
The book is a clear analysis of manageable size concerning the relation of
language and identity in the context of globalization. The book is intended
for both scholars of sociolinguistics and non-experts interested in issues
of language, identity and globalization. The case of Quebec illustrates
with clarity how a multilingual and multicultural community tries to come
up with a viable sense of belonging that can express the expectations of
its diverse inhabitants. The book stresses the fact that Quebec is working
to turn what might be seen as an impediment -- linguistic, cultural and
ethnic diversity -- into an opportunity.
The authors offer a clear and detailed discussion of the debates,
theoretical and otherwise, that have emerged in Quebec's political life in
the past and how they are related to its present. The merit of the book is
that it presents this situation not as a paradigm, but as an ongoing
debate. This is achieved through an in-depth discussion of several official
publications and academic studies that illustrate often contradictory
ideas, proposals and policies applied or suggested in Quebec's public
arena. The discussion follows these debates in their historical formation
and how they have led to the present discourse related to language and
identity in Quebec. Another strong point of the book is its focus on the
most important non-Francophone groups, which depicts these groups concerns
about the civic project of intercultural citizenship, and also how they are
viewed by the French speaking majority.
Although the sequencing of the chapters and their internal coherence is
clear and well structured overall, there are a couple of points that should
be taken into consideration. First, the comparisons that the authors offer
between the different models of citizenship and nations are clear, however,
tables summarizing the main points of each model, either at the end of each
chapter or at the end of the book as an appendix would have been helpful.
Secondly, a chapter dedicated to the reactions of the French-speaking
majority, not only through official publications, would have been an
In all, it would be interesting, and maybe as a point for further research,
to move beyond the textual analysis of mainly official sources to a more
ethnographic approach regarding how these models and policies, and also
languages themselves, are discussed and debated in everyday life. Another
aspect that might widen the scope of the book, since the authors encourage
the comparative perspective, is the comparison between Quebec and other
areas, for instance Catalonia. In this way, readers would appreciate in
more explicit way why the case of Quebec is worth studying, and what it has
to offer in the studies of language, identity and globalization.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Eleni Sideri is teaching in the Department of Communication of New York
University Skopje and the Department of Social Anthropology, University of
Thessaly. Her Ph.D. is in Social Anthropology (SOAS/University of London)
and studies the Greek diasporic communities in the Caucasus, mainly in
Georgia. Her academic interests concern diasporas and transnationalism,
language and oral history, gender and migration.
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