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Citizens and Nation

Citizens and Nation: An Essay on History, Communication, and Canada

Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 352
  • Book Info
    Citizens and Nation
    Book Description:

    Friesen links the media studies of Harold Innis to the social history of recent decades. The result is a framework for Canadian history as told by ordinary people.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8765-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
    Gerald Friesen
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    Grandmother Andre, who lived all her life in the Mackenzie River region of the North-West Territories, told stories in front of a campfire. Elizabeth Goudie, ′woman of Labrador,′ laboriously wrote her own memoir in school scribblers. Phyllis Knight, a German immigrant in Vancouver, taped hours of interviews, and her son then edited them into a single volume. Works documenting the lives of Roseanne, Frank, and Simonne – representatives of today′s society – make frequent mention of television and computers. These six texts, the media in which they were communicated, and the story-telling they represent testify to the structure of human...

  5. Part One: Oral-Traditional Societies

    • 1 Genealogy and Economy
      (pp. 11-30)

      In the concluding pages to his landmark history,The Fur Trade in Canada, published in 1930, Harold Adams Innis offered a sweeping statement: ′We have not yet realized that the Indian and his culture were fundamental to the growth of Canadian institutions.′¹ These words, written by one of the country′s intellectual leaders, constituted an important judgment. Although they undoubtedly rang true then, do they still sound accurate today? Surely, nowadays, we recognize the role of the First Nations in Canada, and surely we acknowledge Aboriginal people as founding peoples. After all, if human history in northern North America spans 20,000...

    • 2 Interpreting Aboriginal Cultures
      (pp. 31-54)

      If Aboriginal views do not underlie Canada′s economic institutions, and if Aboriginal genealogies do not convince today′s Canadians of their country′s indebtedness to Aboriginal precursors, how are Aboriginal people ′fundamental to the growth of Canadian institutions′? The answer, as we see in this chapter, lies in two related realms – in their cultures and in their politics. First Nations people once experienced the basic dimensions of life, the dimensions of time and space, in terms of their relations with the natural world. They did so in specific, identifiable places in northern North America. The dominant mode of communication in their...

  6. Part Two: Textual-Settler Societies

    • 3 Elizabeth Goudie and Canadian Historical Writing
      (pp. 57-80)

      Newcomers from other lands reconstructed the existing society of northern North America. Aboriginal people did not disappear – far from it – but the community, including the First Nations people who were adapting to it, diverged from its former trajectory.

      Despite obvious differences, including language, religion, and national origin, the many groups of new settlers had much in common with the various groups of First Nations. Their daily life, for example, was constructed on ′traditional′ dimensions of time and space. However, theirs was a ′textual′ society, in which written texts supplemented oral communication, even though individual families might have little...

    • 4 Family Chains and Thunder Gusts
      (pp. 81-104)

      If the usual interpretations of settler history no longer knit the present to the past, they must be revised. Yet older citizens often trot out yesterday′s hard-won truths when they explain to young people why community-wide issues deserve continued attention: your foremothers and forefathers endured hardship so that you might find life easier; your ancestors opposed autocrats in order to build democratic institutions; your predecessors built a transcontinental nation on the transportation systems of the time, proving that adaptations to changes in communication must take the community interest into account. It is easy to see survival, frontier, and staple interpretations...

  7. Part Three: Print-Capitalist National Societies

    • 5 Phyllis Knight and Canada′s First Century
      (pp. 107-138)

      The ordinary citizens of northern North America – memoirist Phyllis Knight among them – had to respond to a third dominant construction of time and space in the last half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries. The dimensions of their daily lives were altered by the emergence of waged work in a capitalist society and by an extraordinary succession of technological innovations – the telegraph, the railway, the daily newspaper, the telephone, the photograph, sound recordings, radio, and film, which first appeared and became vehicles of communication between the 1840s and the 1930s. All of...

    • 6 Literate Communication and Political Resistance
      (pp. 139-164)

      Perceptions of time and space changed dramatically between the 1840s and the 1940s, with noteworthy cultural implications. Thus there emerged a single standard of public time. Its precise measurement became inescapable, as life with clocks, timetables, and assembly lines demonstrated. And yet the new age also introduced infinite numbers of perceptions of private time. The paradox moved some observers to conclude that time itself was merely a social construction, as variable as the uses to which it was put. As for space, it seemed to shrink. Ordinary citizens found it impossible to resist the new pace of life that the...

  8. Part Four: Screen-Capitalist Societies

    • 7 Roseanne and Frank Go to Work
      (pp. 167-185)

      Canadians today perceive the dimensions of their environment differently than did Alestine Andre′s grandmother, the young Elizabeth Goudie, and the young Phyllis Knight. They see the world so differently that some historians describe their situation as a fourth version of time and space. This new and distinct context of communication exists for reasons that are as obvious as the computer, satellite, television, and cable technologies that surround us. But the new technologies have also created a world in which the leaders of the great social institutions seem to holdallthe power.

      How are common people helping to develop Canadian...

    • 8 Culture and Politics Today
      (pp. 186-216)

      Perceptions of the dimensions of time and space that developed in the last half of the twentieth century introduced new cultural and political considerations for ordinary Canadians. The most striking was citizens′ need to come to terms with such global phenomena as television and computer-based communication technologies. A second was that they began to doubt their governments and even to doubt their own effectiveness as citizens. Third, they started to question whether any nation, including Canada, was a viable, appropriate governing unit. Yet if democracy was to have real meaning, should ordinary folks not be able to exercise some control...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 217-230)

    This narrative has responded to Canada′s circumstances today by creating a new version of national history. It claims that all citizens can benefit from the sense of continuity that historical synthesis alone can provide. It is political because it contributes to a community discussion about politics and the responsibilities of citizenship.

    The book′s first message concerns the practice of national history. I recognize that this is a time of awkwardness in Canadian historical circles. For a century, many Canadians, especially those who believed that they belonged among the leaders of society, have assumed that the country′s present boundaries demarcated a...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 231-292)
  11. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 293-294)
  12. Index
    (pp. 295-307)