Thursday, April 24, 2008

Not that it matters

I got preliminary results from FQRSC (the provincial funding body for postdoctoral fellowships). Confusing at best, but not confusing enough to give me hope that I got the fellowship. I didn't get it, but I don't know why yet. Something must have been wrong with my application.

The results are as follows:
Cote attribuée par le comité d'évaluation à votre demande: Z [apparently because I didn't receive a passing grade in one or more of the sections]
Rang attribué par le comité d'évaluation à votre demande: 40
Nombre de bourses offertes actuellement dans votre comité: 44
So, this would lead me to believe that I would have gotten a fellowship, as I am ranked 40, and 44 got the fellowship. But what is this "Z" all about? Last time I got a "C."

They must not have received one of my letters (see all about that here), although I would think that that would have been reflected in my ranking.

As I say, not that it matters. But it still makes me sad.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


(as seen from space! - More info soon.)

For those who might be interested...

New single by Nine Inch Nails. You can legally download it by going here (the link brings you to NIN's website). I like it a lot. The mp3 tags of the song encourage the listener to visit on May 5th. A new album perhaps, with the same distribution and payment model as Ghosts I-IV? I can only hope.

Did I mention that I like the song a lot?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More work on "Canada" (veiled as an exciting blog entry)

I will post a bit of news from our recent trip to Winnipeg, a visit to my future workplace and a search for a place to live. For now, though, I need to write a short bit on Canadian identity and nation building in the postwar period. For that, I am happy to quote Paul Litt:
Canadian Nationalism in the postwar period, then, was fuelled by hope and fear--hope that Canada could seize the moment and ensure its destiny; fear that American influences would smother a new Canadianism in its cradle. (377)
Litt maps the Canadian "experience" as the movement after World War II from a colony of Britain to a stand-alone nation, with the fear that Canada would become a colony again, but this time of the United States. The locus of this perceived fear was in the area of culture.

Source: Paul Litt, "The Massey Commission, Americanization, and Canadian Cultural Nationalism," Queen's Quarterly 98:2 (Summer 1991), 375-387.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Canada as instituted by the government

Maurice Charland presents the notion of "technological nationalism," where Canada is said to be manifest by the Canadian Pacific Railroad (a transportation technology which allowed the eastern part of the country to be united with the western part, in terms of trade, commerce, passenger movement, and even communications in the form of the telegraph which followed the tracks) and the CBC, the uniting factor for Canada in terms of media communications. He calls this a "rhetoric of technological nationalism in anglophone Canada which ascribes to technology the capacity to create a nation by enhancing communication." Furthermore, "the CBC is legitimated in political discourse by the CPR." (197)

Source: Maurice Charland, "Technological Nationalism," Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory 10:1-2 (1986), 196-220;

Friday, April 11, 2008

Regarding Canada as a "mosaic" rather than a "melting pot"

Another prevalent model of Canadian nationalism is that Canada is a "mosaic" rather than a "melting pot," the latter being a model upon which the United States is (arguably) based. The "mosaic" model is actually the policy of "multiculturalism," as instated in 1971, "where cultural difference is acknowledged and accomodated within the "mosaic" of national culture." But there is an argument that multiculturalism is "simply another way of entrenching separateness and marginalizing those not recognized as belonging to the dominant culture." Furthermore, the "mosaic" model:
views cultural inscriptions, and hence the notion of difference, as stable, coherent and autonomous. . . . In such a "multicultural" nation, differences are organized into neat, virtual grids of distinct ethnic communities, each with its own "culture."
The "melting pot" model (which is what is generally considered to be the American model of nation-building) refers to a "process of assimilation, where the different cultural and ethnic communities in a nation are conceived as coming together to create a new 'American' race or culture."

Source: Sharmani Patricia Gabriel, "'Between Mosaic and Melting Pot': Negotiating Multiculturalism and Cultural Citizenship in Bharati Mukherjee's Narratives of Diaspora," Postcolonial Text 1:2 (2005); available from; Internet; accessed 8 April 2008.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More about being "Canadian"

Harry Hillier talks about the evolution of thinking in terms of what constitutes the "nation" of Canada. From the country's inception, there was an idea that the political entity affiliated with Britain would bear its imprint (called anglo-conformity). This evolved into the two-nation view by 1960, when new accommodations between English and French in Canada were required. By the 1990s, the notions of a three-nation view emerged, with the "realization" of the prior presence of First Nations. So, in conclusion, the cores and essentials of Canadian nationality are no longer clear. (295)

Kieran Keohane suggests that "Canadian" is defined as manifested in a "way of life." In other words, "Canadian" is how we live. (19) He also suggests that there is an enjoyment of endurance hardwired into Canadians:
Throughout Canadian popular culture there are discourses that celebrate an enjoyment of endurance and a valuation of tolerance. (35)
There also exists a lack of particularity in the character of Canadians. (38)

Keohane writes:
At the heart of the symbolic order of Canada is a knot where endurance and enjoyment, and enjoyment of endurance of lack of particularity, are articulated. This knot of meanings supports values of tolerance and unpretentiousness. (40)
Of course, one of the common conceptions of Canada is that it is not the United States, and nor are Canadians all the same.

Finally, there is a friendly character of Canadian humour. We are not afraid of making fun of ourselves, with self-disclosure and self-deprication. (153-154)

Sources: Harry H. Hillier, Canadian Society: A Macro Analysis (Fifth Edition) (Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006); Hieran Keohane, Symptoms of Canada: An Essay on the Canadian Identity (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997).

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Defining "Canadian-ness"

In an article that appeared in the Dominion paper, Susana Ferreira discusses how the definition of being "Canadian" is difficult (in the context of immigration, in particular), and that this difficulty is part of how one defines "Canadian":
The question of Canadian Identity is a familiar and prominent one. Canadians spend so much time agonizing over our lack of solid, touchable, definable identity that it has practically become a national pastime. Some would argue that it is this agonizing itself that best defines our national identity.
She goes on to suggest that a firm identity of who we are requires a firm identity of what we are not. I think that most would agree that Canadians certainly know what they are not, and that this knowledge does nothing to tell them who they are: Canadians are not American (or, to a much lesser extent, British or French).

Ferreira blames Canada's laissez-faire attitude regarding identity to the "broad embrace of Multiculturalism."

She outlines how "Canadian-ness" is built: "The process of nation-building is tied to space, language, education, and common or shared knowledge." For Ferreira, Multiculturalism is a barrier to a shared space, language, education and knowledge. She states, "Canadianness becomes something obtainable via assimilation to White, Western mindsets and practices."

Sumayya Kassamali and Usamah Ahmad continue with similar sentiments in suggesting that Canada is built on the ideals of tolerance, democracy and justice. They also identify the difficulties faced by immigrant communities even in a supposedly multicultural society.
Nationalism always works to shroud status quo relations and exploitation by constructing an imagined commune to which one must be emotionally and viscerally committed. There have thus been charges that if certain groups do not accept dominant mores, they have no reason to be here. We are forced into celebratory nationalism or are labeled "Enemies Within" who need to be exorcised (or deported).
While these two articles provide scathing criticisms of Canadian nationalism and especially multiculturalism, they point to inadequacies of the Canadian "imaginary," to borrow from Kassamali and Ahmad. Do other countries suffer with similar problems? Or perhaps as Ferreira suggests, "Canadian-ness" must make the Other suffer, and thus (I would argue) suffer itself, in order to remain "Canadian."

Sources: Susana Ferreira, "Multiculturalism: It Hurts Us All," The Dominion (6 November 2004); available from; Internet; accessed 8 April 2008. Sumayya Kassamali & Usamah Ahmad, "Wounded Sentiments: Multiculturalism, the 'Toronto 17,' and the National Imaginary," The Peak 123:7 (19 June 2006); available from; Internet; accessed 8 April 2008.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I thought I would chime in...

I'm a bit late but I would like to congratulate Leslie Feist on winning 5 Juno awards this last weekend. I wasn't able to watch the telecast on Sunday night, but I did see many of her acceptance speeches on the CTV website (only after I downloaded the Microsoft Silverlight plug-in; Silverlight is MS's answer to Flash video). She seemed genuinely thankful to receive the recognition that came with the awards.

I'm writing about her right now, so she's on my mind.

Picture from REUTERS/Todd Korol (and here).

Friday, April 04, 2008

More on Feist, Leclerc and France

Christopher M. Jones describes Felix Leclerc in Paris in 1974:
Felix Leclerc was the authentic Quebecois--with acoustic guitar, boots, and flannel shirts on stage at the Olympia in Paris--seemingly just emerged from the woods, representing the origin myth, an unspoiled New World Man.
In an interesting twist, Jones suggests that, with few exceptions of what he calls "crossover" artists, Quebec music has not been embraced in France, nor have French artists been embraced in Quebec (he quotes Gilbert Ohayon of EMI France to support this). So, Perhaps Leclerc was seen as an Other, a kind of "exotic" or something. In a way, perhaps Feist is seen in a similar way, but where Leclerc was linked to a Quebec "nationalism," Feist is linked to ... nothing.

Source: Christopher M. Jones, "Quebec Song: Strategies in the Cultural Marketplace," Quebec Studies 31 (Spring-Summer 2001), 50-60. Also available here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The successes of Félix Leclerc vs. Feist

Things are starting to become a bit more clear in terms of why Feist's successes in France problematize her categorization as "Canadian," while the successes of Félix Leclerc in France do not problematize his status as a contributor to Quebec culture within Canada.

To recap a bit of what I wrote yesterday, there is a historic boundary in Quebec music. On one side are songwriters (and Michèle Ollivier calls these "rock artists" as well), and on the other are interpreters - Ollivier calls them artistes populaires (they primarily perform songs written by others).

I suggest that Feist's work in the French language can be placed in the second category, as she does not write her songs in French. She usually performs known works (like "La Javanaise" with Juliette Gréco or Gainsbourg's "Boomerang"), while her more recent song in French for the movie Paris, Je t'Aime was written by Elizabeth Anaïs and Christophe Montieux.

Here is what Ollivier says about Félix Leclerc's successes:
[His] success in France as a songwriter-interpreter in the 1950s contributed to the emergence both of a new style of popular music and of a strong nationalist movement in Quebec. (98)
Ollivier suggests that there is a high level of "prestige" associated with Leclerc and artists like him in the Quebec music scene. This "prestige" also corresponds to those artists that are considered "song writers." rather than those who were only trying for quick and temporary successes. (98, 103) Again, from Ollivier:
Félix Leclerc experienced a phenomenal success in France. His success abroad gave new legitimacy to local artists and paved the way for the development of a new genre of popular music artists, who became known as the chansonniers. (99)
One might wish to compare Feist to three Quebec singers that Ollivier mentions: Céline Dion (large success in the United States), Roch Voisine (large success in Europe), and Ginette Reno (large success in the rest of Canada). Feist is different that these artists in that she is completely outside of the Quebec music scene. Her French work does not find its origin in Quebec. Her origins might be placed in Nova Scotia (by birth), Calgary (early music formation), Toronto (as a base of operations and beginnings of success) and even Berlin or Paris ("origins" of her currently popular persona).

Quebec does not figure at all in the career of Feist. Therefore, when she aligns herself with French singers and chanson, this does not gain her any prestige with Quebec audiences, because she's not from there. Leclerc and these others were able to remain Québécois(e) because of the strong ties to that province; their global successes followed them back to their home to reinforce that original nationalist association (I cringe to use the term "nationalist"). Or at least that's what I think.

Feist is English-speaking and Canadian. Her alignment with France and French culture problematizes her status as Canadian. If she was from Quebec, or if she was French-Canadian, perhaps her successes and acceptance in France would imbue her with "prestige" back at home.

Source: Michèle Ollivier, "Snobs and Quétaines: Prestige and Boundaries in Popular Music in Quebec," Popular Music 25:1 (2006), 97-116.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Feist and Quebec

In preparing revisions to my paper on Feist and Canadian Popular Music, I'm exploring how her case is different from other Canadian musicians as per the following. Why is it that her acceptance into the French (as in France) chanson scene renders her less Canadian (or as a problematized Canadian) when a Quebec singer like Felix Leclerc is popular in France but still considered no less of a Quebecois artist?

There is a historical conception of popular music in Quebec as being separated into two genres, chanson (or singer/songwriter) and mass culture, or American-style pop styles. (Grenier 212) It seems that all French-language Quebec music has since been bunched together as chanson, and that, though the distinction in styles has been ignored, there has also been a resurgence in popularity of the traditional singer/songwriter or chanson style. (220)

Also, Quebec music has found itself aligned to (or included in) a greater global "movement" of francophone music, "la francophonie." There seems less nationalistic associations embedded in this music, then, when considered from a global perspective.

I wonder if Feist's "Canadian-ness" is simply* a non-francophone "Canadian-ness." Her chanson singing is part of this "francophonie" rather than a Canadian French-language tradition.

* "simply" is not the right word. Nothing is simple, and if one argues that something is simple, someone else can argue that it's not. Thus, with the presentation of that argument, the thing is certainly no longer "simple," whether one thinks it is ... or not.

Source: Line Grenier, "The Aftermath of a Crisis: Quebec Music Industries in the 1980s," Popular Music 12:3 (October 1993), 209-227.