Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Are You a Canadianist?

A friend asked me about the meaning of "Canadianist". I had never come across this word before, but it sounded familiar from the various discussions on the role of intellectuals in the process of drawing the boundaries of the nation. The word itself seems to refer to those intellectuals involved in studying various aspects of the Canadian culture. Google the word, and you'll find various academic groups gladly borrowing the label.

I remembered a discussion at an academic conference. I was attending the annual editorial meeting of an academic journal. I won't name it, but it's one of those beginning with the word "Canadian". One of the members of the editorial board was lamenting the fact that the journal doesn't feature enough "Canadian" research. Given my interest in nationalism, I asked her why necessarily "Canadian"; shouldn't an academic journal feature 'quality' research, 'critical' research, 'interesting' research? Why do we need to see research as 'Canadian'? And what would make it such? Would an American scholar working in Canada produce a Canadian research? ...

Scholars of nationalism have called this perspective 'methodological nationalism': formulating a research question from the premises of an existing national space. It doesn't matter if we do not agree on what defines this space - in fact, instead of noticing the impossibility of such a space, we take it for granted and dig into it. In the above mentioned discussion, the member of the editorial board dismissed my question arguing that the Canadian academic market is dominated by the American market. And this was the end of the discussion.

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