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Review of  Language, Citizenship and Identity in Quebec

Reviewer: Andy Van Drom
Book Title: Language, Citizenship and Identity in Quebec
Book Author: Leigh Oakes Jane Warren
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): French
Issue Number: 19.189

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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.

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

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.

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).

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.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 1403949751
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 288
Prices: U.K. £ 50.00