Canadian Studies at the Crossroads, Again!
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Canadian Studies at the Crossroads, Again!
ABSTRACT

Canadian Studies and the project of knowing ourselves have a long history. The initiative took a leap forward in the 1970s with the release of the Symons Report and the development of Canadian Studies programs and departments in a number of Canadian and international universities. By the 1990s, however, interest in Canadian Studies was flagging. The situation has not improved of late. This essay touches on the many reasons behind the current waning of interest in and support for Canadian Studies: economic, political, socio-cultural, and intellectual. It addresses interdisciplinarity, a foundation of the Canadian Studies project, showing how this refusal to contain knowledge within traditional academic disciplines was at first embraced by area studies but is now generalized throughout scholarly research. This has made the appeal of Canadian Studies less novel than it once was. Yet there are also corresponding developments, such as Indigenization, that reveal the extent to which new knowledge of Canadian experience can be gained through interdisciplinary research. For this research to flourish, and for the potential of Canadian Studies to be realized, scholars and others must defend old achievements in order to keep alive the possibilities of new advances in learning and of knowing ourselves more thoroughly.

Résumé

Les études canadiennes et le projet de nous connaitre en tant que Canadiens ont une longue histoire. Un grand bond a été réalisé dans les années 1970, grâce au rapport Symons et à la mise en place de programmes et de départements d'études canadiennes dans bon nombre d'universités, au pays comme à l'étranger. Vers 1990, toutefois, cet intérêt faiblissait, et la situation ne s'est pas améliorée depuis. Cet article aborde les nombreuses raisons qui expliquent le déclin actuel de l'intérêt et du soutien accordés aux études canadiennes, raisons qui sont économiques, politiques, socioculturelles et intellectuelles. La question de l'interdisciplinarité, entre autres, qui est aux fondements de cette ambition de connaitre le Canada, montre que ce refus de contenir le savoir dans les limites classiques des disciplines universitaires, au départ une particularité des études régionales, est maintenant répandu à l'ensemble des domaines universitaires. Les études sur le Canada ont ainsi perdu l'un de leurs attraits exclusifs. Malgré cela, des cheminements connexes, comme ceux de l'autochtonisation, exposent toute la mesure des nouvelles connaissances qu'il est possible d'acquérir sur l'expérience canadienne grâce à la [End Page 10] recherche multidisciplinaire. Or, pour que ce champ de recherche s'épanouisse, et pour que se réalise le plein potentiel des études canadiennes, chercheurs et enseignants doivent faire valoir les progrès anciens, afin de laisser ouvert le champ des avancées futures dans l'apprentissage et la connaissance profonde de ce que nous sommes.

Keywords

Canadian Studies, Symons Report, Indigenization, interdisciplinarity, social change, nationalism, intellectual traditions

Mots clés

études canadiennes, rapport Symons, autochtonisation, interdisciplinarité, changement social, nationalisme, traditions intellectuelles

It is a daunting task indeed to assess the place and prospects of Canadian Studies at the current moment. Some may well ask, What exactly is the current moment? My own views, having taught in and for a time chaired the Canadian Studies department at Trent University, and worked within its MA program in Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies and the joint Trent–Carleton PhD in Canadian Studies, are no doubt impressionistic. I have not conducted the kind of surveys that have been done in the past, but I am aware of national and international developments: of Canadian Studies departments being downgraded to programs; of programs being discontinued; of declining support for the study of Canada within departments in which Canadian content was once thought not only central but invaluable; of university administrations questioning the worth of Canadian content, unless it can garner the support of donors and an influx of cash; of government insistence that Canadian Studies pay dividends recognizable in terms of neo-liberal state values; of students finding so many other areas of inquiry more "relevant." All of this may not be happening everywhere, all at once. But it is...


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