Contesting meaning: Newfie and the politics of ethnic labelling

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Abstract

The ethnic label Newfie is a site of ideological dispute: for some, it is simply an informal term for residents and expatriates of the Canadian province of Newfoundland, for others it may function as an in–group term of solidarity which takes on negative connotations when used by non–Newfoundlanders, and for still others it is the equivalent of a racial slur. In this study we first trace the history of the term, a fairly recent innovation. We then examine present–day attitudes as expressed in (provincial and national) media discourse and in self–report data. We argue that debate over Newfie is part of a larger ideological struggle concerning the commodification of an ‘invented’ Newfoundland culture, which itself must be understood in terms of Newfoundland’s socioeconomic position as Canada’s poorest province. Finally, we compare the Newfie case to other instances of contested group labelling.

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