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Canadian Cultural Poesis

Essays on Canadian Culture

Edited by Garry Sherbert, Annie Gérin, and Sheila Petty
Subjects Cultural Studies
Series Cultural Studies Hide Details
Paperback : 9780889204867, 540 pages, February 2006


Excerpt from Canadian Cultural Poesis: Essays on Canadian Culture edited by Garry Sherbert, Annie Gérin, and Sheila Petty

From Chapter 6. Marketing Ambivalence: Molson Breweries Go Postcolonial by Cynthia Sugars

The paradox of a unifying Canadian ambivalence is central to Molson Breweries' “I am Canadian ad” campaign. Launched in 1994 and reaching its height in the famous “Rant” advertisement aired on national television (and in movie theatres) in March 2000, the campaign tapped into the subjugated nationalism lurking in the Canadian psyche at a period when nationalist sentiment was thought to be all but extinct. Of course, Molson had been using a “Canadian pride platform” to sell their product well before this. 12 The company's prime product is called “Canadian”; it sponsors Hockey Night in Canada and the Molson Indy, not to mention the prestigious Molson Prize for contribution to the arts; and, in the 1980s, Molson's became a national-cultural symbol through its association with the beer-drinking Canadian archetypes Bob and Doug MacKenzie on SCTV. Molson's had all but cornered the market in Canadian patriotism: “The firm that brought you Canada's first beer (1786) and, for a time, its most glorious hockey dynasty (Les Canadiens) now brings you Canada's most in-your-face patriotism. Never mind beer, Molson has become the purveyor of the national dream, “ wrote one reviewer for the Calgary Herald. 13

Publicity manager Michelle Robichaud stated that there was nothing subtle about the Molson “Rant”, 14 and indeed, on the surface, the text of the ad appears straightforward. The scene opens with a darkened stage, probably a movie theatre, 15 on which stands a solitary microphone. Enter average “Joe Canadian”, dressed in jeans and lumberjack shirt, who shyly begins to address the various stereotypes of Canadian identity. His monologue builds to a crescendo, a “rant”, as he enunciates the numerous ways Canadians are different from Americans. In the process, images of his text are flashed on an immense screen behind him. The “rant” culminates in Joe's final assertion--”I am Canadian! “--and concludes with him mumbling thank you and sheepishly walking off the stage.

My interest is not so much in the nationalist jingoism of the advertisement, but rather in its method--the way that the ad was able to (re)package Canadian nationalism to make it palatable to the seemingly “post-national” audience of the late twentieth century. In effect, by marketing a certain narrative of Canadian postcolonial identity and by dramatizing a central conflict within postcolonial expression more generally, Molson's was able to tap into the conflicted nationalist subtext that informs Canadian culture and identity. Through its self-referential stance, the ad performs a version of national skepticism, for even as it promotes Canadian nationalism, it dramatizes a debunking of national identity constructs. To adapt Homi Bhabha's phrasing, “The Rant” is a nationalist text that performs Canada as a nation “which is not one. “

In a very obvious way, then, “The Rant” invites a postcolonial analysis. A postcolonial commendation of the text might celebrate it as an instance of Canadian expression in the face of American cultural imperialism. It might highlight the ways it pokes fun at national stereotypes and utilizes the celebrated mode of Canadian self-deprecating irony. The ad also attends to the important issue of language, and how a former British colony makes the English language its own. Thus, for instance, Joe rants about how we use the word “chesterfield” to mean couch, and say “zed” instead of “zee”. 16

A postcolonial critique of the advertisement might comment on the ways it espouses conventional liberal values and does so from a young, white, middle-class, Anglo male perspective. The ad, then, speaks to only a select segment of the Canadian population. In one swoop, it excludes Canada's Inuit peoples by distancing “Joe Canadian” from those who eat whale blubber and live in igloos. It evokes a history of conquest and settlement in its allusion to fur traders and lumberjacks, and hence sets itself squarely within the context of European colonialism (Joe, you might say, is the prototype of the white, male settler subject). The speech, in fact, is set to the soundtrack of the stirring anthem of British imperialism, Sir Edward Elgar's pomp and circumstance march, “The Land of Hope and Glory”. It excludes many recent immigrant groups through Joe's claim to speak English and French as his native tongue, and in the clearly Anglo-Saxon names of other Canadians that he may or may not know personally: Jimmy, Sally, or Suzie, and so on. Finally, despite its nod to French Canada, the ad could not be marketed in Quebec, for obvious nationalist (perhaps even postcolonial) reasons. 17 All of this confirms what Himani Bannerji says about the selective nature of the national imaginary: “It is obviously a construction, a set of representations, embodying certain types of political and cultural communities and their operations. “18 Despite its apparent claims to an encompassing and inclusive Canadian identity, “The Rant” calls attention to the gaps within the national rhetoric, spotlighting the very people who are outside its marketing (and nation-making) radar. Some Canadians, the ad suggests, are more Canadian than others. If “The Rant” can be deemed postcolonial at all, it is surely as an instance of a compromised postcolonialism through its invocation of a nation that disavows its fraught origins. In this way, it dramatizes the dilemma at the core of postcolonial theory itself, what Alan Lawson identifies in terms of a “double move [that] might recognize the resistance in nationalisms while recognizing their concomitant containment”. 19


Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Canadian Cultural Poesis: Essays on Canadian Culture, edited by Garry Sherbert, Annie Gérin, and Sheila Petty

List of Illustrations

Preface | Garry Sherbert


Introduction: A Poetics of Canadian Culture | Garry Sherbert

I: Media and Its (Dis)Contents

My Grandmother’s Violin | Frances Dorsey

1. (Im)Possible Exchanges: The Arts of Counter-Surveillance | Gary Genosko

2. Canadian Humour and National Culture: Move Over, Mr. Leacock | Beverly Rasporich

3. Collective Memory on the Airwaves: The Negotiation of Unity and Diversity in a Troubled Canadian Nationalism | Emily West

4. Framing the Local: Canadian Film Policy and the Problem of Place | Zo Druick

5. Framing Culture, Talking Race: Race, Gender, and Violence in the News Media | Yasmin Jiwani

II: Performing and Disrupting Identities

20 minute visualization: Sandee, Lee, Sandra, Seema | Joanne Bristol

6. Marketing Ambivalence: Molson Breweries Go Postcolonial | Cynthia Sugars

7. “The North” Intersecting Worlds and World Views | Alastair Campbell and Kirk Cameron

8. Dressed to Thrill: Costume, Body, and Dress in Canadian Performative Art | Jayne Wark

9. Figures of Otherness in Canadian Video | Joanne Lalonde

10. Queerly Canadian: “Perversion Chic’’ Cinema and (Queer) Nationalism in English Canada | Jason Morgan

III: (Dis)Locating Language

Pull/Apart | Rachelle Viader Knowles

11. Out of Psychoanalysis: A Ficto-Criticism Monologue | Jeanne Randolph

12. Some Imaginary Geographies in Quebec Fiction | Ceri Morgan

13. L. M. Montgomery on Television: The Romance and Industry of Adaptation Process | Patsy Aspasia Kotsopoulos

14. The Use of “Fisher” in a Nova Scotian Fishing Community: A Theory of Hegemony for a Complex Canadian Culture | Carol Corbin

15. Thinking the Wonderful: After Rudolf Komorous, beside the Reveries | Martin Arnold

16. Maîtres Chez Nous: Public Art and Linguistic Identity in Quebec | Annie Gérin

IV: Cultural Dissidence

Belle Sauvage | Lori Blondeau

17. Black History and Culture in Canada: A Celebration of Essence or Presence | Cecil Foster

18. Decolonizing Interpretation at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site | Erna L. Macleod

19. Culture and an Aboriginal Charter of Rights | Eric Sherbert

20. Canadian Gothic: Multiculturalism, Indigeneity, and Gender in Prairie Cinema | Susan Lord

21. Through a Canadian Lens: Discourses of Nationalism and Aboriginal Representation in Governmental Photographs | Carol Payne


Biographical Notes


Biographical Notes

Martin Arnold is a composer and writer based in Toronto. He has studied in Canada and the Netherlands, where his teachers were Alfred Fisher, Frederic Rzewski, John Cage, Louis Andriessen, Gilius van Bergeijk, Rudolf Komorous, Douglas Collinge, and Michael Longton. He holds a doctorate from the University of Victoria. His compositions have been performed in Canada, the United States, the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Slovakia. He publishes in the areas of music and art criticism.

Lori Blondeau is a performance artist based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She is a PhD candidate at the University of Saskatchewan, where she also teaches. In 1994 Blondeau co-founded, with Bradlee LaRocque, Tribe A Centre for Evolving Aboriginal Media, Visual and Performing Arts. Lori’s performance and visual work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Her current work consists of a series of performances based on memory, home, displacement, and decolonization.

Joanne Bristol’s work investigates the interplay between art, science, and history. The work in this book is part of her project, JoJo’s School of Aesthetics: Services in the Arts of Projection, Attention and Photography, a series of performances involving shared activities and conversation with audiences (see www. bentaerial. net). She also teaches at the Alberta College of Art and Design.

Kirk Cameron was born in Whitehorse, Yukon, and has studied English and history at Victoria University and Queens. He has published two books and a number of articles on northern political development, the most recent book (co-authored) being Northern Governments in Transition. He has worked for the governments of Yukon, British Columbia, and Canada, and is currently secretary to the Yukon Cabinet.

Alastair Campbell has studied history, anthropology, and semiotics in New Zealand, Canada, and Italy and has taught anthropology and sociology courses at the University of Ottawa. He has worked for the Assembly of First Nations and the governments of Canada, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. His work has entailed extensive analysis of Aboriginal and northern issues, and the writing of policy and informational booklets.

Carol Corbin is an associate professor of communication at the University College of Cape Breton, Sydney, Nova Scotia. She publishes in the areas of community, ecology, and culture, and has edited three books related to the island of Cape Breton, and a fourth on rhetoric and postmodernism with Michael Calvin McGee. She is currently working on the modernist enterprise in China from 1900 to 1949 and spent the fall of 2000 studying and teaching in Beijing.

Frances Dorsey is an associate professor of art at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. Educated in Canada and the United States, her studio practice is based primarily in textiles and printmaking. She exhibits both nationally and internationally.

Zoe Druick is an assistant professor in the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University, where she teaches film and media studies. She has published in the area of Canadian film policy, with an emphasis on the history of the National Film Board of Canada. She is currently completing a book on the subject, The Surface of Society.

Cecil Foster is an author and scholar. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Guelph. His publications include A Place Called Heaven, The Meaning of Being Black in Canada, and the forthcoming books, Where Race Does Not Matter: The New Spirit of Modernity and Multiculturalism: Issues of Citizenship, Culture, and Identity.

Gary Genosko teaches cultural sociology at Lakehead University. His books include Baudrillard and Signs (1994), McLuhan and Baudrillard (1999), Undisciplined Theory (1998), and Contest: Essays on Sports, Culture and Politics (1999). He is editor of The Uncollected Baudrillard (2001), Deleuze and Guattari: Critical Assessments, 3 vols. (2001), and The Guattari Reader (1996). He is general editor of The Semiotic Review of Books.

Annie Gérin is a curator and assistant professor of art history and art theory at the Department of Visual Arts, the University of Ottawa. Educated in Canada, Russia, and the UK, her research interests encompass the areas of Soviet art and propaganda, Canadian public art, and art on the World Wide Web. She is especially concerned with art encountered by non-specialized publics, outside the gallery space.

Yasmin Jiwani is a faculty member in the Department of Communications at Concordia University. Prior to her move to Concordia, she was the executive coordinator of the BC/Yukon Feminist Research, Education, Development and Action (freda) Centre at Simon Fraser University.

Rachelle Viader Knowles is a visual artist working in a broad range of contemporary media, including lens, time, and text-based installation. Originally from the UK, Rachelle studied at Cardiff College of Art and the University of Wales before moving to Canada in 1994 to study at the University of Windsor. Recent solo exhibitions include: the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Chapter Gallery in Wales, Peak Gallery in Toronto, and the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba. Rachelle Viader Knowles heads the intermedia area in the Visual Arts Department at the University of Regina.

Patsy Aspasia Kotsopoulos is a doctoral candidate in communications at Simon Fraser University. She is researching and writing her dissertation, “Romance and Industry on the Road to Avonlea,” for which she received a SSHRC doctoral fellowship. She teaches film and interdisciplinary studies at the University of Victoria.

Joanne Lalonde is a professor of art history at uqam and the director of the undergraduate program. She received her doctorate in semiotics from UQAM in 1999. Her research deals principally with the relationships between art and technology, media art (Canadian video), and representations of sexual and identitarian hybridization in contemporary art.

Susan Lord is an associate professor of film studies at Queen’s University, where she is also cross-appointed with the Institute of Women’s Studies. Her main teaching and research areas are feminist theory and film culture, and cultural studies of media and technology. She has published on gender and technology in Public and CineAction, as well as on feminist film culture in several recent anthologies, and is writing a book on multiculturalism, feminism, and the films of Anne Wheeler. She is currently co-editing a collection of essays entitled Digital Aesthetics: Time, Technology and the Cultures of Everyday Life, and another entitled Killing Women: Gender, Representation, and Violence.

Erna Macleod is a PhD student in the Department of Communication at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research interests include media criticism and identity issues, particularly those related to Canadian national identity. She is a lifelong resident of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, and has been employed as a tour guide at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site for the past fifteen years.

Ceri Morgan received her doctorate from Southampton University in 2000. Her thesis considers representations of space, place, and identity in the contemporary francophone novel in Quebec. She is currently teaching at Keele University in the United Kingdom.

Jason Morgan is a doctoral candidate in the Joint PhD Program in Communication at Concordia University (in conjunction with the Université de Montreal and the Université de Québec à Montréal). He has previously received a master of arts in communication studies from the University of Calgary. His current research focuses on the intersection of representations of death with the body in contemporary culture.

Carol Payne is an assistant professor of art history at Carleton University’s School for Studies in Art and Culture. She writes and curates exhibitions on a wide range of issues involving photographic practice and reception, including commercial images of the 1920s, Canadian governmental uses of photography, and contemporary photo-based art practice. She is currently working on a major study of the National Film Board of Canada’s Still Photography Division, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Sheila Petty is dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts and professor of media studies at the University of Regina (Canada). She is also an adjunct scientist (New Media) at TRLabs, Regina. She has written extensively on issues of cultural representation, identity, and nation in African and African diasporic cinema, television, and new technologies. She has curated film and television series and exhibitions for galleries across Canada.

Jeanne Randolph is a cultural theorist whose lectures, performances, and writings put a psychoanalytic torque on hi tech, advertising, mass media, and popculture phenomena. In Psychoanalysis & Synchronized Swimming, Symbolization and Its Discontents, and her forthcoming Why Stoics Box, Jeanne’s collected writings embellish the value that contemporary visual arts contribute to contemporary society.

Beverly Rasporich is a professor in the interdisciplinary Faculty of Communication and Culture at the University of Calgary. She teaches in the Canadian Studies program and is the author of Dance of the Sexes: Art and Gender in the Fiction of Alice Munro, and co-editor of A Passion For Identity: An Introduction to Canadian Studies and Woman as Artist. She has written numerous articles on Canadian culture on such topics as Canadian humour, Native literature, multiculturalism, and folk art. She is co-author of the thematic entry “Canadian Culture and Ethnic Diversity” in the Encyclopedia of Canada’s Peoples. She has recently completed a compact disc on the visual arts, Western Place/Women’s Space.

Eric Sherbert holds a ba and llb from Queen’s University and is currently working as legal counsel at the Department of Justice, Canada, in Toronto. He is currently completing his LLM at Queen’s University with a thesis entitled “Towards an Aboriginal Charter of Rights. ”

Garry Sherbert is an associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Regina in Regina, Canada. He is the author of Menippean Satire and the Poetics of Wit. He is currently co-editing two volumes of The Collected Works of Northrop Frye: Shakespeare and the Renaissance, as well as coauthoring a book entitled In the Name of Friendship, on Jacques Derrida and poet-philosopher Michel Deguy.

Cynthia Sugars is an assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Ottawa. She is the author of numerous articles and reviews on Canadian literature and postcolonial theory, including a forthcoming contribution to ARIEL entitled “Can the Canadian Speak? Lost in Postcolonial Space. ” She is currently editing a collection of essays entitled Unhomely States: Theorizing English-Canadian Postcolonialism.

Jayne Wark is an associate professor of art history at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. Her publications on contemporary visual art focus on conceptual art, video, and performance art. She is currently working on a book on feminist performance in North America.

Emily West received her PhD from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently an assistant professor in the Communication Department at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Her co-authored article on British nationalism as mediated by newspapers appeared in a 2004 issue of European Journal of Communication. In addition to her ongoing research interest in media and nationalism, she is working on major projects about two feminized and commonly denigrated forms of popular culture: greeting cards and cheerleading. Her dissertation project on expressing the self through greeting card communication was awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship. She teaches and writes in the areas of consumer culture, media audiences, infotainment, and freedom of expression.


How do we make culture and how does culture make us?

Canadian Cultural Poesis takes a comprehensive approach toward Canadian culture from a variety of provocative perspectives. Centred on the notion of culture as social identity, it offers original essays on cultural issues of urgent concern to Canadians: gender, technology, cultural ethnicity, and regionalism. From a broad range of disciplines, contributors consider these issues in the contexts of media, individual and national identity, language, and cultural dissent.

Providing an excellent introduction to current debates in Canadian culture, Canadian Cultural Poesis will appeal not only to readers looking for an overview of Canadian culture but also to those interested in cultural studies and interdisciplinarity, as well as scholars in film, art, literature, sociology, communication, and womens studies. This book offers new insights into how we make and are made by Canadian culture, each essay contributing to this poetics, inventing new ways to welcome cultural differences of all kinds fo the Canadian cultural community.


``The introduction, `A Poetics of Canadian Culture,' by co-editor Garry Sherbert, is an excellent and trenchant discussion of `culture' and as such it tackles the vexed issue of its definition and the tricky question of both its specificity and its uncertainty. ''

- Berkeley Kaite, Canadian Literature, Number 195, Winter 2007

``Expertly edited. ..Canadian Cultural Poesis is an outstanding. ..compendium offering in-depth and subject-specific analysis of Canadian art, film, literature, sociology, technology, regionalism, communication, women's studies, and more. ..A welcome addition to academic library reference collections, Canadian Cultural Poesis is very highly recommended. ''

- James A. Cox, Wisconsin Bookwatch

``In taking as their object of study the relations between specific cultural practices or discourses, everyday life and larger structures of power, the essays in this collection together reveal. ..the basis of the best sort of cultural studies being practiced in this country. ... [An] important antholog[y]. ''

- Peter Dickinson, Topia, Volume 18