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Review of Language, Citizenship and Identity in Quebec
Authors: Oakes, Leigh and Warren, Jane Title: Language, Citizenship and Identity in Quebec Series: Language and Globalization Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Year: 2007
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 citizenship.
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 social practice.
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 advantage.
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:
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.