Posts Tagged ‘Quebec’

December 19th, 2016

Beheading the Saint: An introduction

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Beheading the SaintBeheading the Saint is about the shifting relationship between nationalism, religion, and secularism in a society which was, until the late 1960s, exemplary of what Charles Taylor calls the “neo-Durkheimian” link between national identity and religion, wherein “the sense of belonging to the group and confession are fused and the moral issues of the group’s history tend to be coded in religious categories” (2007, 458). I examine how the relationship between French Canadianness and Catholicism was configured in the nineteenth century, how it was reconfigured as Québécois and secular in the 1960s, and why and how that transition informs recent debates over secularism in Québec. The secularization of national identity during the Quiet Revolution remains the key to understanding the role and place of religion in the public sphere in today’s Québec.

October 13th, 2016

Building secularity via religious revival and the “patrimonialization” of religion

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Image via Flickr user Quinn DombrowskiWhile crude secularization theories predicting the end of religion have, in response to strong criticism, been refined to be less ideologically driven, more empirically accurate, and theoretically more robust, in recent years, “secularism,” “secularity,” and “the secular” have in effect supplanted secularization altogether. Secularity is a principle in which the religious and secular spheres are distinct. Religion, in a secular society, is one option among many other ideational systems, identities, affiliations, and activities. Secularism, by contrast, is a political project that aims at instituting secularity—at creating a secular society by socially upholding, culturally enforcing, and legally securing the separation of the religious and secular domains. Building on that literature, my recent works on Poland and Québec focus on the process of becoming secular—on the aesthetic, bodily, social, and legal practices of enacting secular identifications and affiliations. In this approach, secularity is never fully achieved but always in process, and often itself infiltrated by religion. My first point, then, is that in places where religion was (or still is) an ethnonational marker, secularism only signifies in relation to specific national(ist) projects, and as such can only be understood by social scientists when triangulated with religion and nationalism.

How does this play out in the cases I’ve worked on?

September 4th, 2014

Short skirts and niqab bans: On sexuality and the secular body

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Introduced in Québec in March 2010, Bill 94 proposed requiring women to unveil their faces if they wanted to work in the public sector or access public services, including hospitals, universities, and public transportation. The bill was eventually tabled and was followed in November 2013 with Bill 60, which demanded in more generalist language the removal of conspicuous religious signs in order to dispense or use public services in the province. These Québécois bills—which have not passed—echo the logic of the April 2011 French law targeting the niqab (face veil) and banning the “dissimulation of the face” in public spaces. Both French and Québécois proponents of these laws cited gender equality and women’s emancipation—which they deemed foundational to French and Québécois values—as their primary goal. Despite Québec’s long insistence that it espouses a third path between Canadian multiculturalism and the French Jacobin model, Québec and France have increasingly converged to promote a model of secularism in which liberty and equality are articulated as sexual liberty and sexual equality. In fact, these niqab restrictions represent a broader secular-liberal discourse—what Joan W. Scott calls “sexularism”—that posits secularism as the best guarantor of women’s sexual freedom and sexual equality and, therefore, as that which distinguishes the West from the woman-oppressing rest, especially from Islam.

April 16th, 2014

The Charter of Quebec Values derailed

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On April 7th the Quebec Liberal Party won a majority government in the 41st Quebec general election, with incumbent Parti Québécois, and its controversial Charter of Quebec Values, finishing second.

February 20th, 2014

The Charter of Quebec Values

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On November 7th, 2013, on the heels of a heated public debate about the role of religion in public life, the government of Quebec tabled its controversial Bill 60, “Charte affirmant les valeurs de laïcité et de neutralité religieuse de l’État ainsi que d’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes et encadrant les demandes d’accommodement” (Charter affirming the values of state secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests). The legislation, introduced by Bernard Drainville, the minister for Democratic institutions and active citizenship, seeks to affirm the religious neutrality of the state, specifically by prohibiting public sector employees—including those working in hospitals, schools, daycare centers, and universities—from wearing “signes ostentatoires” [conspicuous religious symbols], examples of which include hijabs, kippas, Sikh turbans, and “large” crucifixes. The legislation also proposes to amend Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, in order to enshrine the equality of men and women as the highest human right, to which other rights (e.g. freedom of religious expression) would be subordinated.

January 3rd, 2011

Of saints, separatism, and secularization (part 2)

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In my previous post, I discussed the ambivalent legacy of the Catholic Church in Québec in light of the recent canonization of the province’s first homegrown saint. I suggested that the post-sixties rise of Québécois nationalism emerged largely at the expense of this Catholic identity, which many blamed for Québec’s longtime passivity in the face of English-Canadian domination, even as the Church also played a key historical role in the survival of French-Canadian culture. In this post, I would like to suggest the ways in which this complex politico-religious legacy has shaped current debates over the “reasonable accommodation” of immigrants in Québec.

November 24th, 2010

Of saints, separatism, and secularization (part 1)

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Three weeks ago, in a province with the lowest rate of Church attendance in Canada, 50,000 people attended Mass to honour the canonization of Québec’s first homegrown saint. Born into poverty in 1845 and orphaned at the age of 12, largely illiterate and chronically sickly, “Brother André” has been acclaimed as the archetypical hero of a Québec that seems largely unrecognizable today. […]