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Us, Them, and Others: Reflections on Canadian Multiculturalism and National Identity at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century


  • The author underlines how very honored and grateful she is for having received the Canadian Sociological Association's 2012 John Porter Book Award! She is indebted to too many people to be able to thank them all in person here. She acknowledges the colleagues who volunteered their time to serve on the jury, and her interlocutors in three book symposia (published or forthcoming in Canadian Ethnic Studies (2011), Journal of International Migration and Integration (2014), SociologieS (forthcoming); cf. bibliography). She is specifically thankful to the three anonymous reviewers for their careful reading of this paper, whose second part has been fundamentally revised in response to their suggestions. Finally, she is happy to acknowledge the funding received for both research projects mentioned in this paper from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The author is solely responsible for all remaining errors of fact or interpretation.

  • Porter Lecture at the Canadian Sociological Association, Victoria, June 4, 2013.

  • Submitted for publication in the Canadian Review of Sociology (November 19, 2013).


La Conférence John Porter, effectuée lors de la rencontre annuelle de la Société canadienne de sociologie à Victoria en 2013, se base sur le livre Us, Them and Others : Pluralism and National Identity in Diverse Societies (Winter, 2011). En intégrant les résultats d'une analyse discursive des journaux canadiens en langue anglaise pendant les années 1990, et à travers un cadre théorique inspiré de la sociologie wébérienne, le livre propose d'envisager le pluralisme comme une série de relations triangulaires dynamiques, où le compromis entre des groupes inégaux – “us” et “other”- est amené à faire sens à cause de la confrontation avec l'autrui réel ou imaginé (“them”). La conférence débute par un résumé de la contribution théorique, puis explique comment le multiculturalisme a été consolidé en tant que discours dominant au Canada dans les années 1990. Par la suite, les changements subis par l'identité canadienne multiculturelle au début du 21e siècle sont discutés.

The John Porter Lecture at the annual meeting of the Canadian Sociological Association in Victoria 2013 draws upon my book Us, Them, and Others: Pluralism and National Identity in Diverse Societies. Incorporating the findings from an analysis of Canadian English-language newspaper discourses during the 1990s into a theoretical framework inspired by Weberian sociology, the book argues that pluralism is best understood as a dynamic set of triangular relations where the compromise between unequal groups—“us” and “others”—is rendered meaningful through the confrontation with real or imagined outsiders (“them”). The lecture summarizes the theoretical contribution and explains how multiculturalism became consolidated in dominant Canadian discourses in the late 1990s. The lecture then discusses changes to Canadian multicultural identity at the beginning of the twenty-first century.