Introduction

“Culture and the Canada-US Border” (CCUSB) is an international research network dedicated to studying cultural representation, production and exchange on and around the Canada-US border. Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, CCUSB comprises core members in the UK, Canada and the USA, with a wider network of European and North American affiliates.

This blog provides a space in which network members and guest writers will explore issues of interest and raise important questions about the comparative study of North American cultures generally and border studies specifically. The latter’s emphasis, in a North American context, has traditionally been on the US-Mexico borderlands, which have generated examinations of nation-state relations, immigration, security, crime, cultural, ethnic and racial identity, gender and sexuality, and “nearly every psychic or geographic space about which one can thematize problems of boundary or limit” (Michaelson, 1-2). In broader terms, border studies brings important insights to bear on human rights issues, environmental practices, globalization, and consumption and production of everything from food to clothing, from culture to wealth.

While the theoretical insights that have emerged from study of the US-Mexico border have influenced border studies scholars in multiple ways, we contend that new theorizing of the Canada-US border is urgent. While Chicana writer Gloria Anzaldúa describes the US-Mexico border as the point at which “the Third World grates against the first and bleeds,” (25) we ask how the vastly different socio-economic and cultural conditions at the Canada-US border inform perceptions of that boundary. What can a closer focus on cultural production at, representation of, and exchange across, the 49th parallel bring to border discourse more generally?

Founding questions for the network include:

  • If the US-Mexico border effects a brutal juxtaposition of national economic prosperity and deprivation, operating alongside a linguistic and ethnic divide, what functions do we attribute to the Canada-US border?
  • If the Canada-US border features prominently in Canada’s sense of national identity, how does it figure further south?
  • To what extent do subnational groups’ relationships to this border diverge from dominant national positions, particularly in the case of Quebec—whose linguistic and cultural difference from Anglo North America has ‘guaranteed’ a point of distinction between Canada and the United States—and Indigenous peoples, for whom the border is illegitimate?
  • And finally, given the increased attention paid to this site in the post-9/11 era, we ask how perceptions of the border, once seen as passive and porous, have changed—in both North America and the world at large, how have apprehensions of US-Canadian sameness/difference been altered or reinforced?

Network members, then, seek to raise awareness of the ways in which the Canada-US border provides an important paradigm for the continued development of border discourse, and hope to draw attention to the diverse locale-specific experiences of communities on and around the border site.

To find out more about us and forthcoming events, or to join our mailing list, please visit our website at www.kent.ac.uk/ccusb.

 Dr David Stirrup, University of Kent

CITATIONS:

Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: the New Mestiza. Aunt Lute Books, 1987.

Michaelson, Scott, and David E. Johnson eds. Border Theory: the Limits of Cultural Politics. University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

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