Culture at the Canada-US Border
Publication Year: 2014
The essays collected in Parallel Encounters offer close analysis of an array of cultural representations of the Canada–US border, in both site-specificity and in the ways in which they reveal and conceal cultural similarities and differences. Contributors focus on a range of regional sites along the border and examine a rich variety of expressive forms, including poetry, fiction, drama, visual art, television, and cinema produced on both sides of the 49th parallel.
The field of border studies has hitherto neglected the Canada–US border as a site of cultural interest, tending to examine only its role in transnational policy, economic cycles, and legal and political frameworks. Border studies has long been rooted in the US–Mexico divide; shifting the locus of that discussion north to the 49th parallel, the contributors ask what added complications a site-specific analysis of culture at the Canada–US border can bring to the conversation. In so doing, this collection responds to the demands of Hemispheric American Studies to broaden considerations of the significance of American culture to the Americas as a whole—bringing Canadian Studies into dialogue with the dominantly US-centric critical theory in questions of citizenship, globalization, Indigenous mobilization, hemispheric exchange, and transnationalism.
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Series: Cultural Studies
Title Page, Copyright Page
The conversations about the cultural implications of the Canada–US border that inform this book began at the Culture and the Canada–US Border Conference at the University of Kent in June 2009. We wish to express our gratitude to our delegates, many of whom travelled a long way from North...
1. Introduction: Culture at the 49th Parallel: Nationalism, Indigeneity, and the Hemispheric
Gillian Roberts and David Stirrup
It is widely acknowledged that the Canada–US border has long been an important symbol in the Canadian imaginary, considered a site of cultural defence for Canadian identity against US hegemony. Yet it is also plainly the case that the Canada–US border provides a prism through which and at which...
Popular Culture and/at the Border
2. Queer(y)ing Fur: Reading Fashion Television’s Border Crossings
Fur has had a long and complex relationship with Canada, shaping the country’s economic, political, and even sexual identity. Concurrently, fur remains an important part of the North American and indeed global fashion industry, symbolizing luxury and warmth. Julia Emberley reveals some of the...
3. Meanings of Health as Cultural Identity and Ideology Across the Canada–US Border
The Canada-US international boarder is a social space where a juxtaposition of health care systems exposes ideological tensions. Using Michael Moore’s political documentary SiCKO (2007) as an entry point, this chapter questions the meaning of health in terms of cultural identity and ideology as well as what...
4. Television, Nation, and National Security: The CBC’s The Border
Sarah A. Matheson
In the midst of the infamous WikiLeaks release of classified documents from the US State Department in November 2010 were reports of confidential cables from the US embassy in Ottawa to officials in Washington that supposedly raised concerns about the portrayal of Americans on Canadian television...
5. “Normalizing Relations”: The Canada/Cuban Imaginary on the Fringe of Border Discourse
Joanne C. Elvy and Luis René Fernández Tabío
The boarder between Canada and United States, often referred to as the longest undefended frontier in the world, is a visual reminder of a peculiar tension between the two nations with respect to national identity and historical memory. Within our respective imaginaries, the 49th parallel may be...
6. How, Exactly, Does the Beaver Bite Back? The Case of Canadian Students Viewing Paul Haggis’s Crash
Lee Easton and Kelly Hewson
In his essay "Canada: The Borderline Case," Marshall McLuhan famously cast the Canada–US border as an “interval of resonance,” porous and charged with historical and emotional intensities (227). Janine Marchessault further refined McLuhan’s “interval” as an “interface where two objects meet, often...
Indigenous Cultures and North American Borders
7. Discursive Positioning: A Comparative Study of Postcolonialism in Native Studies Across the US–Canada Border
Maggie Ann Bowers
It may seem obvious that understandings of postcolonialism will differ between nation-states with different histories of colonialism. So we can assume that postcolonialism is viewed differently on either side of the Canada–US border. The contrasting idea that a tribal group split by the border may well have...
8. Strategic Parallels: Invoking the Border in Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water and Drew Hayden Taylor’s In a World Created by a Drunken God
In "Gray Zone" episode 2 of the first season of CBC’s The Border, Canadian Immigration and Customs Security (ICS) agents clash with US Homeland Security’s Bianca LaGarda over how to approach a case unfolding on Mohawk territory. “This stretch of the river is a black hole of border policing,” LaGarda...
9. Waste-full Crossings in Thomas King’s Truth & Bright Water
Thomas King's Truth & Bright Water begins with an illusory image of a smooth border crossing that never takes place, anticipating the fatal, failed border crossing that constitutes the novel’s tragic climax. King foregrounds the unfinished and wasted state of the only bridge “serving” the cross-border...
10. Bridging the Third Bank: Indigeneity and Installation Art at the Canada–US Border
This chapter considers six nations Mohawk artist Alan Michelson’s Third Bank of the River (2009) and his earlier sound and video installation TwoRow II (2005), alongside non-Indigenous Canadian artist Alex McKay’s Treaty Canoe and Treaty of Niagara 1764 (1999) as examples of border art. Michelson’s work...
11. Cross-Border Identifications and Dislocations: Visual Art and the Construction of Identity in North America
Sarah E.K. Smith
Contemporary performance artist and writer Guillermo Gómez-Peña suggests the possibility of redefining America in terms of hemispheric unity, as a North American continent where national boundaries are irrelevant. Ironically, his utopian vision is seemingly legitimized by processes of neoliberal...
12. Conversations That Never Happened: The Writing and Activism of Gloria Anzaldúa, Maria Campbell, and Howard Adams
Over the past three decades an entire field of study has emerged from the US–Mexico border. The discipline of border studies congratulates itself on its inter- and cross-disciplinary nature: encompassing the fields of history, politics, economics, anthropology, and literature, it concerns itself with a variety...
Theorizing the Border: Literature, Performance, Translation
13. “Some Borders Are More Easily Crossed Than Others”: Negotiating Guillermo Verdecchia’s Fronteras Americanas
Maureen Kincaid Speller
"Verdecchia" poses this question in the opening scene of Guillermo Verdecchia’s Fronteras Americanas/American Borders (1997). “Verdecchia” is “lost and trying to figure out where I took that wrong turn … I suspect we got lost while crossing the border” (20). At this stage, “Verdecchia” is no clearer than...
14. Discounting Slavery: The Currency Wars, Minstrelsy, and “The White Nigger” in Thomas Chandler Haliburton’s The Clockmaker
In the last decade, New World slavery has been one of the central grounds of comparative analysis in Hemispheric American Studies. Examinations of slavery and its legacy in the Americas have for the most part employed the “plantation as a New World paradigm”: “the plantation—more than anything...
15. Detained at Customs: Jane Rule, Censorship, and the Politics of Crossing the Canada–US Border
This chapter analyzes the operations of the Canada–US border as an instrument of “bio-power” in the regulation of citizens’ lives, taking the literal and figurative border crossings in the life and work of Jane Rule as its principal case study. In The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault identifies two forms of...
16. Strangers in Strange Lands: Cultural Translation in Gaétan Soucy’s Vaudeville!
Gaétan Soucy’s postmodern comedy of early-twentieth-century New York immigration begins with a beating; or, more precisely, as the opening line puts it, “it all began with a fall” (5). The protagonist, Xavier X. Mortanse, an apprentice demolition man, tumbles 15 metres into a ravine following a brutal kick to...
17. Bodies of Information: Cross-Border Poetics in the Twenty-First Century
In the first chapter of The Writing of America, Geoff Ward isolates the term “outwith,” as distinct from “outside”: for Ward, “outwith” (a Scottish term) avoids the binarism of the English word “outside” and “can point in a more mobile way to a position that can still include proximity and inclusion”...
18. Bordering on Borders: Dream, Memory, and Allegories of Writing
This chapter explores why sentient beings make borders, what kinds of borders they make, and the implications of those distinct kinds of borders for ways of being and thinking about our selves. It explores dream as a place that embodies difference, memory as a process of situating that embodiment...
Notes on Contributors