Borderlands: How We Talk About Canada by W. H. New

By W. H. New

This article lines a number of the ways that border metaphors pervade Canadian attention. It addresses various social concerns corresponding to separatism, marginalization, multiculturalism, colonial attitudes, nationwide guidelines, language and the impression of the USA.

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Perhaps to some (meteorological) degree, they are right. ' This is politics with a vengeance. ) But in the long run, categories design a paint-by-number illusion, like the national mosaic; they do not factor in inconsistency. Terms such as treeline, poverty line, and time zone seem to me to be similarly tendentious. Boundary markers all, they sound simply descriptive: of a climate/vegetation ratio, an economic fact, a social acknowledgment of the earth's rotation. What could be more natural? The Canadian Encyclopedia advises, for example, that in the North the treeline 'is correlated generally with the modal (most common) position of the southern edge of the arctic front in summer, and with such temperature indices as the July 10° isotherm' Q.

Uniformity of heritage is not the signal feature that underpins Canadian cultural distinctiveness; the more likely commonality is far more inexact and abstruse: it has to do with a characteristic response to people and events, a characteristic expectation of social behaviour, a community of feeling about variation and possibility that takes the practical form of shared systems of social support. 2. IRONY. 7 We reject the image of wilderness that others apply to us, whether as an assumption about physical reality - such as the American meteorological phrase 'Canadian air,' which equates with 'winter' - or as a metaphoric generalization about the social character in The Orchard, a 1994 novel by the Australian writer Drusilla Modjeska, a conversation takes place at one point in an exclusive English girls' boarding-school: '"I gather Frances Petersen lives in Canada," I said.

The continuing existence of these distinct trends suggests that 'cultures' persist beyond the influence of fad, The Edge of Everything 53 fashion, and individual corporate desire. That said, one has also to acknowledge that cultures change. And just as America has been influencing Canada, so has there been a reverse influence in effect, if less immediately apparent. It is true that Canadian programming is directly available to some listeners in the border states, and that it now constitutes a significant component in American 'public' - that is, alternative, noncommercial - radio and television.

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