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JODY BERLAND Marginal Notes on Cultural Studies in Canada In recent years, postcolonial theory, felninist theory, queer theory, and environlnental thought have challenged the practice and study of culture and catalysed richly productive methodological and political debates. Artists and scholars have been encouraged to explore what it 11leans to speak on behalf of a specific cOlnmunity of interests: for/about women, people of colour, gays or lesbians, non-hulnan others; even about Canada, when academics organize international conferences in order to hear and orchestrate representative lnarginalia £r01n diverse locations. At such events I have found that the tenn 'cultural studies' disguises a multiplicity of concepts and vocabularies, and have found myself compelled to map Iny own thinking in tenus of Canadian conceptual resources. This paper seeks to present a brief portrait of the history of discourses about culture, politicS, and the nation in Canada that in my view contribute to the shaping of cultural studies in this country. This is not the sanle, I hope I need not point out, as setting out a nationalist agenda for culture in the traditional sense. This distinction identifies one of the great tasks of cultural studies today. Canadian thought may have special insights to offer in this endeavour. Debates in Canadian cultural politics do not originate in an expressive concept of distinct 'identiti which elsewhere characterized national and ideological cultures of nlOdernisln and recent assaults upon their ethnocentrislu . Attempts to apply theoretical insights from elsewhere to the cultural contradictions of Canadianness, therefore, often seeln to lne misguided and lTIisleading. Yet this flow of ideas has posed relevant challenges to our own dialogue. When 'speaking for' and 'speaking of' are equally subject to challenge, we are cOlnpelled to reflect on our organizing concepts and the history of their collective formation. Ironically, Canada has produced a veritable canon of strategical exploration and description of its ongoing identity crisis, now among the oldest and 1110St dense bodies of inquiry into culture and nationhood in the industrialized world. Silnultaneously a colony and a Inodern, 'advanced ,' (quasi)industrialized nation, Canada has produced itself as the subject of critical discourses on the politics of culture for SOlue seventy years, Inobilizing concerns that now appear around the globe. The longevity of these discourses, and their continuing reiteration in government UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 64, NUMBER 4, FALL 1995 MARGINAL NOTES 515 publications, artists' lobbies, textbooks, and critical essays, give them a historical stature and familiarity just this side of boredom. Will the current crisis of national direction revive these concerns or lay them to rest forever? I It would not be stretching the truth very far to say that the first texts in Canadian cultural studies were written by royal commissions. Since 1928, when the Canadian government responded to public concern about the American cOlnmerciallnonopoly of Canada's airwaves by appointing the Aird Royal Conunission to study broadcasting, government-appointed committees have been producing critical studies of Canadian culture, or rather, of the probleln of Canadian culture, mass media, and national identity.l These studies, spread across lnost of the twentieth century and synthesizing a range of political viewpoints within the country, have done much to define and circllil1scribe the values and goals of critical thinking about culture in Canada. Ahnost without exception, the reports produced by these conllnittees and commissions have reiterated and elaborated a consensus of opposition to corporate Inonopolies and foreign domination of broadcasting and the cultural industries. They voice particular objections to cultural dOlnination by American media, and argue that to counter such forces the proactive developnlent of an autonomous national culture is required. This necessitates (according to the logic of econOlnic scale and market forces) public control of and financial support for national cultural institutions responsible for broadcasting, filnl, arts funding, and so forth. None accedes to the American view of the marketplace ~s the best guarantor of individual or cultural democracy. These two policy recoInlnendations for Caiwdian Inedia and culture - that they should be primarily Canadian, however that might be defined, and that they be supported by the public sector - have been represented as both inseparable and incontestable , with the exception of the Reaganomic turn of the early 1980s (regrettably revived in the...


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