Abstract

During the early part of the twentieth century, Canada faced a massive immigration of hundreds of thousands of people from Southern and Eastern Europe. Threatened by the presence of new, non-British ethnic communities, the British-Canadian elite took measures to consolidate white, British-Canadian identity. Central to this project was the cultural work of John Murray Gibbon. Gibbon's interventions were critical in the development and popularization of the concept of the "Canadian Mosaic," a discourse that served to both describe and contain racial and ethnic diversity in the early decades of twentieth-century Canada. His 1938 text, the Canadian Mosaic, and the multiple folk music and handicraft festivals he staged across the country, mobilized spectacle in an effort to consolidate white, British-Canadian identity, perform it as stable both for themselves and for their immigrant audience, and in so doing cause it to function as a model for successful assimilation into "Canadian culture." Gibbon's work with the folk festivals and Canadian Mosaic serve as texts from which can be read how multiple discourses of race, citizenship, cultural belonging, and national identity operated in this period of demographic flux. The necessity of performance, the fragility and flexibility of Canadian whiteness, and the domestication and feminization of ethnic difference were all in play as the British-Canadian elite attempted to stabilize a "liberal order."

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Additional Information

ISSN
1935-8652
Print ISSN
1935-8644
Pages
pp. 37-60
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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