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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: 2006
Andy Van Drom, Department of Language, Linguistics and Translation, Laval University, Quebec.
SUMMARY By adopting a pluridisciplinary approach rooted in sociolinguistics, _Language, Citizenship and Identity in Quebec_ by Leigh Oakes and Jane Warren primarily seeks to contribute to ''a more comprehensive understanding of the complex relationship between a language and national identity, not only in Quebec, but also in a broader sense'' (p. 2). Indeed, Quebec has seen its conception of identity undergo numerous and considerable changes over the past centuries ('French', 'Canadian', 'French-Canadian'); a process that has gained in vigor especially since the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s ('Quebecer', 'Quebecois') and that feeds many a debate on the interpretation of a national Quebec identity to this day. As traditional shared values such as religion have become less important, the French language seems to have become the only identity-constructing element that has withstood the test of time since the colonial origins of Quebec. However, the challenges that result from globalization (multiculturalism, multilingualism, etc.) seem to impose on Quebec the necessity to develop an experience of identity that goes beyond the cultural domain.
By studying primary sources (official publications and empirical studies) as well as secondary materials (academic and newspaper articles), Oakes and Warren analyze the current social dynamic that seeks to develop an integrative approach to citizenship based on the cultural legacy of Quebec as well as its civic principles. By so doing, the authors more specifically wish to find answers to three main research questions (p. 4):
1. ''In its effort to maintain a distinct national identity, how is Quebec dealing with the new realities of ethnic diversity and globalisation?'' 2. ''What is Quebec doing to forge a sense of common identity through language?'' 3. ''To what extent is official policy concerning these issues compatible with the diverse experiences of minorities in Quebec?''
Answers to these questions are presented throughout ten chapters, divided in three parts that concentrate respectively on the social context of Quebec (''New Challenges'', ch. 1-4), the status of French (''A Common Language'', ch. 5-6) and case-studies of immigrant, Anglophone and aboriginal minorities in the territory (''Diverse Experiences'', ch. 7-9).
Apart from describing the aims and methodology of the study as outlined above, the first chapter introduces the theoretical notions that are central to the research topic: social, ethnic and national identity, citizenship and globalization. To this end, the authors present a concise overview of the theories elaborated by a number of well-recognized scholars in the fields of psychology and sociology (Anderson, Gellner, Hobsbawn, Smith and Tajfel to name but a few).
Part 1 of the book opens with chapter 2, which traces the shift ''from an ethnic past to a civic future'' that Quebec has chosen to strive for (p. 26). Indeed, in the wake of the Quiet Revolution, and the secularization of Quebec society that resulted from it, a civic conception of its identity slowly but surely started to suppress the ethnically inspired nationalism that had largely resulted from the failure of the Patriot revolt in 1837-38. In order to situate this expression of identity in terms of citizenship, Oakes and Warren discuss the concepts of liberal and civic republican citizenship that are generally distinguished. They conclude that Quebec presents a unique ''third way'' model of intercultural citizenship that draws on both liberal and republican viewpoints. This allows ''Quebec citizenship to exist alongside Canadian citizenship'' and is ''designed to foster an integrative attachment to Quebec and unite Quebecers of all ethnic origins'' (p. 5).
In chapter 3, the authors present a more theoretical approach to the question of national identity, as they examine the three general models that have been considered for Quebec over time: the ethnic model (Dumont), the civic model (Derrienic, Leydet, Caldwell, Bariteau) and a third one that seeks to reconciliate the ethnic and the civic (Bouchard, Seymour, Taylor) and is currently favored in Quebec.
Chapter 4 opens up the scope of Quebec identity as it focuses on the international scene, and more specifically the opportunities that result from globalization processes and which have been taken up by Quebec to participate in global networks such as la Francophonie as well as geographical entities such as North America. The chapter focuses on linguistic and cultural challenges that Quebec has to deal with in the global context, such as the predominance of English as a 'lingua franca', and how Quebec succeeds in reinforcing its position on the world scene by 'acting locally' through global cooperation (p. 23).
In part 2, the emphasis is on language, and more specifically, ''Quebec's use of language planning as a means of finding a voice for itself which is distinct both from France and within North America'' (p. 81). First, chapter 5 summarizes the key events with regards to the status planning that has been an intrinsic part of Quebec's official language policy since the 1960s. The authors point out that more recently, the focus has been on 'de-enthnicizing' French and its promotion as a means to create equal opportunities for all Quebecers, including immigrants. This inevitably leads to the question that is addressed in the 6th chapter: which variety of French should be promoted in Quebec, the variety that has developed locally ('français d'ici'), or a 'standard' variety that is associated with France and confounded with several other notions such as international French, Parisian French, etc. In order to sketch evolution of this debate, the chapter goes back to origins of the myth of a 'French Canadian patois' in the 19th century, and links this to the emergence of a sense of linguistic insecurity amongst French-speaking Quebecers ''because of the perceived lack of quality associated with their variety'' (p. 81). The question is raised whether to be truly civic, Quebec should abandon its 'national variety' and adopt a form of 'international French'.
The third and last part of the book presents three case-studies that focus respectively on immigrant groups (ch. 7), English speakers (ch. 8) and Aboriginal nations (ch. 9) that live in Quebec. The authors examine how these minority groups experience their relationship to Quebec society and explore the range of meanings that belonging can have for these Quebecers. Attention is also paid to the attitudes of the Francophone majority and whether it can fully accept these groups as 'true' Quebecers. Finally, the blurring of boundaries between majority and minority groups through growing bi- and multilingualism and mixing is discussed.
The final chapter ''summarises the findings in terms of the three main research question posed above'' (p. 6). The authors look at how these questions could play out in the (near) future. They conclude that ''Quebec's model of intercultural citizenship, which allows the affirmation of a distinct culture predicated on the French language, the accommodation and respect of pluralism, and the construction of a common identity by Quebecers of all ethnic origins'' (p. 197) is worth pursuing as ''it seems clear that present global conditions will continue in the foreseeable future, and that Quebec will continue to be faced with the challenge of new arrivals from an increasingly wide range of countries of origin'' (p. 197). This said, a number of related difficulties are identified with regards to the appeal of a civic model of citizenship and language amongst minority groups, and the authors emphasize the importance of the development of mechanisms ''to ensure that each minority's voice is clearly heard in the shaping of its own and the collective present and future'' (p. 198). This way, Quebec is ''at the forefront of what it means to construct a modern, inclusive, liberal democracy'' (p. 198) and a source of inspiration for other nation-states as well as sub-states.
EVALUATION In _Language, Citizenship and Identity in Quebec_, Leigh Oakes and Jane Warren present a concise yet clear overview not only of the Quebec situation as a particular case, but also of the general theoretical concepts of identity and citizenship that play a key role in the Quebec nation-building process. The authors manage to provide the reader with a balanced mix of theoretical notions and historical events that are crucial to comprehend the social processes that the book focuses on from several viewpoints (including Anglophone, immigrant and Aboriginal minorities) and angles (official texts, media debates, scholarly articles). In order to be able to examine the many different facets of the Quebec case, the authors inevitably have made choices and compromises with regards to the level of detail of their study. This, however, should not be seen as a shortcoming, as the book can easily be read as an introduction to the relationship between language and identity in Quebec by undergrad students in Linguistics or Sociology as well as non-experts, whilst scholars will like to consult some of the references available in its impressive bibliography.
Although on the back cover, the book is described as ''the first comprehensive study in English to make a sociolinguistic contribution to the question of Quebec identity'', it does not contain a chapter that provides the reader with a proper linguistic description of Quebec French, which, in turn, would allow for a better comprehension of some of the issues of language status and quality that are evoked, for instance, in chapter 6. Moreover, the analyses focus predominantly on official discourse and documents, making the book a sociological study of a language-related phenomenon, rather than a sociolinguistic study typically including analyses based on authentic linguistic production. It would seem logical to explore this path in another volume, making a considerable addition to this excellent analysis of the young Quebec Nation and the challenges it faces, bound to become indispensable to many a student, scholar or non-expert interested in the Quebec case or indeed one of the many other countries or regions that currently deal with the same challenges (e.g. Belgium, Catalonia).
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Andy Van Drom is a PhD candidate in Linguistics at Laval University, Quebec, Canada. His research focuses on the linguistic expression of identity in political discourse from a Critical Discourse Analysis perspective. He is also attached to the Faculty of Law (Laval University) where he coordinates a research project on linguistic polyphony in Contract Law.