“Culture and the Canada-US Border” is an international research network funded by the Leverhulme Trust, based at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Our partner institutions are the University of Nottingham, the University of Buffalo, Algoma University and Mount Royal University.
The US-Mexico border is generally thought of as representing a linguistic, ethnic and economic divide—a line of brutal juxtaposition between two nations, and the point at which, Gloria Anzaldúa has noted, 'the Third World grates against the First and bleeds'. But how do we perceive the Canada-US border, traditionally celebrated as the longest undefended border in the world? While border studies in North America has hitherto focused primarily on US engagement with Mexico to the south, the CCUSB network seeks to shift border discussion North to the 49th parallel, and to investigate the representation of the border in both American and Canadian culture and cultural production.
As part of our research, we are asking a number of questions:
- How far North can we take the insights produced by US-Mexico border studies—or do we need different theories altogether for a different border?
- If the Canada-US border features prominently in Canada’s sense of national identity, how does it figure further south?
- How is the meaning of this border challenged by, for example, Quebec nationalism, or indigenous peoples for whom the border is illegitimate?
- How might closer scrutiny of the Canada-US border, particularly after 9/11, affect the way both nation-states are perceived globally? Have apprehensions of US-Canadian sameness/difference been altered or reinforced?
- What are the cultural implications of the Canada-US border in Canadian and/or American literature, television, cinema, visual art, music, and other cultural forms.
Canada, and Canadian Studies scholarship, is often overlooked within the broader field of American Studies, despite recent insistence on the field’s ‘transnational’ turn. This interdisciplinary network seeks to rectify this oversight. And while the majority of Canada-US border research has, thus far, fallen within the remit of the social sciences, we seek to place a new emphasis on culture and cultural production, engaging with, for example, literature, architecture or visual art, political and social cultures, and shifting cultural understandings of identity and nationality.
What are we doing?
Network members seek to examine culture across and around the Canada-US border, to raise awareness of the Canada-US border within border discourse, and to draw attention to the diverse experiences of communities around the border site. We seek also to raise the profile of Canadian culture and comparative North American Studies in the UK, from secondary education onwards.
How will we do this?
Central to the network’s activities will be the staging of two international conferences, as well as a series of workshops. While bringing together the core network members, these events will also draw broad-based participation from individuals, institutions and communities in North America and Europe, allowing for a fully interdisciplinary and international conversation.
Beyond the workshops and conferences, the network will generate a sustained body of high-quality published material, both in print and online. Workshops and conferences will be documented with audio and video recordings. The network blog, meanwhile, will offer perspectives from network members and invited guests on key issues. Future plans include a body of teaching resources available on the website, and at least two edited volumes of essays generated by the conferences. This varied output will, we hope, provide a lasting and valuable resource for scholars, students and all those interested in, or impacted by, the Canada-US border.
The network is intended to enable a wide-ranging dialogue around a number of key issues relating to the border. These include:
• Challenges to nation-state borders and the idea of the nation posed by Quebec nationalism
• Challenges to nation-state borders posed by indigenous self-determination
• First Nations/Native Americans and cross-border identifications, dislocations and land/border disputes
• Cross-border migration
• Constructions of US-Canada sameness and difference
• Assessments of the usefulness of US-Mexico border theory
• The potential for local discourse to inform conversations about nation-state boundaries
• Globalization and security
• Cultural production, including border art and aesthetics
• Ethics and aesthetics of border surveillance
• The relationship between cultural narratives and cross-border policy