Tag Archives: history

Reconstructing the Canadian identity

Visiting Doctoral Program Report

By David Scott, University of Calgary, PhD, student, Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Doctoral Fellow

As part of the Then/Hier Education Network visiting doctoral program, over the last two weeks I have been fortunate to study in Québec City with Jocelyn Létourneau, who is a holder of a Canada Research Chair in Contemporary Political History and Economy Laval Université. Dr. Létourneau’s work examining the ways Canadians interact with the past and how this influences their identity formations has long interested me. Inspired by Dr. Létourneau’s (2004, 2007) work exploring the ways young Québécois story a national past, in my doctoral research I plan to undertake a parallel study examining how adolescents in Western Canada tell the story of Canada. Specifically, I am interested in the extent to which the narrative structure underpinning their recounting of the historical experience of Canada is collectively held, and the ways particular narratives shape their historical consciousness in terms of how they see the past, understand the present, and anticipate the future.

In undertaking this research, I had several goals in coming to study at Laval.

  • Would this study offer a relevant addition to the literature and would it in fact, as I was assuming, be the first of its kind in English Canada?
  • How did Dr. Létourneau and his research team go about collecting and coding their data set and what particular methodological approaches did they use in their studies?
  • To what extent have scholars theorized the pedagogical implications of various memory studies that have occurred in Quebec and elsewhere (see, for example, VanSledright (2008) in the US and Wertsch (2004) in Russia)?
  • Finally, I came here to meet with other scholars in Quebec whose research parallels mine in order to explore opportunities for collaboration and ongoing dialogue.

Thanks to the warm welcome and ongoing mentorship of Dr. Létourneau during my stay here, along with the continued conversations I have had with other graduate students here, I have gained great insights into my research concerns. In the first instance, it seems that similar research on Anglophone understandings of the past has been documented, but only here in Quebec. However, I was to learn that Dr. Stéphane Levesque at the University of Ottawa plans to undertake a similar study in English Canada. Through a Skype meeting with him, we are discussing possibilities for ways I could help him realize our mutual research interests.

In terms of my methodological concerns, through meeting with Dr. Létourneau and his research assistants Jean-Francois Conroy and Raphaël Gani, I was given access to their corpus of work and sat in on several sessions where they explained the data gathering and coding process. In this regard ongoing conversations and insights from Raphaël have been a tremendous source of support in helping me both better appreciate issues of methodology as well as the scholarly terrain of emerging work in the field.

In relation to how emerging studies in memory studies might inform newcurricular and pedagogical possibilities for history education, it seems that this is a fairly open field for inquiry. Here, I speak of further pushing forward an approach to history education that drawing on Létourneau’s (2004, 2007) work, moves way from seeing students as empty vessels deficient in knowledge and skills, but rather makes the narrative structures that inhabit students’ vision of the past a central object of historical inquiry. Within this frame teachers would enter students’ basic matrixes of understanding, first pointing out limitations and then proposing different narrative referents for storying a national past that might offer new pathways of thinking to emerge. This will no doubt raise debates in the field, as teaching history through narrative has long been out of favour with scholars in both the disciplinary and critical post-modern paradigms. However, I continue to believe that narrative is central to how all people make sense of history, and by ignoring how young people story the past and further failing to offer new narrative possibilities, we are failing to engage their primary engine of historical consciousness that informs how they orientate themselves in the world. This to me provides an important area for further theorizing.

In the coming months I look forward to continuing the conversations begun here and collaborating on future research with people I have met during my sojourn in Quebec.

I would like to thank Dr. Létourneau and the graduate students here along with Then/Hier Education Network in providing me with this opportunity to study here.


Létourneau, J. (2004). Young people’s assimilation of a collective historical memory: A case study of Quebeckers of French-Canadian heritage. In P.Seixas, (Ed.), Theorizing historical consciousness (pp. 109-128). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Létourneau, J. (2007). Remembering our past: An examination of the historical memory of young Québécois. In R. M. Sandwell (Ed.), To the past: History education, public memory and citizenship in Canada (pp. 70-87). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

VanSledright, B. (2008). Narratives of nation-state, historical knowledge, and school history education.Review of Research in Education, 32 (1), 109-146.

Wertstch, J. (2004). Specific narratives and schematic narrative templates.In P.Seixas, (Eds.), Theorizing historical consciousness (pp. 49-62). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

A Place For a More Critical Form of Historical Inquiry in Social Studies and History Classrooms

At University of Calgary, David Scott is a doctoral student in history education. He obtain a bursary from THEN/HiER to travel to Québec so he can be our guest this week at the Chair. Here is one of Dave’ article. In it, he cite Jocelyn Létourneau’ work on historical consciousness.

As documented by Létourneau (2007), powerful collectively held narrations of a national past, or what he terms “mythhistories,” rely on basic narrative structures that carry with them a series of reference points including “binary notions of insiders and outsiders, stereotypes, and other representations that act a basic matrix of understanding, a simple way of comprehending the complexity of the past (and the present as well)” (p. 79).

A Place For a More Critical Form of Historical Inquiry in Social Studies and History Classrooms PDF
David Michael Scott

david scott

Our new survey : vote !

In your opinion, which images are associated with Quebec’s past and the Quebec identity? Among the 60 images presented, select the 10 that you consider best represent Quebec’s history and identity ? Vote here.

Picturing Quebec with Caricatures : Moods and Humor of a Society Through Time

Call for papers for Recherches sociographiques (2014).

In Quebec, as elsewhere, caricature as a medium is being used increasingly to depict society as it evolves. Caricaturists are popular; they have become real stars by appearing on television, with some even hosting their own shows! They also have a strong presence on the Web and their published works top the bestsellers lists.

For some time now, caricaturist’s work has been (re) discovered as a source for studying society. Under the influence of those comic editorialists and their biting and caustic humor, representations are built that inspire, provoke, entertain or incite conversation. On this basis, a society may transform, crystallize, laugh or cry at itself. 

In this thematic issue, we endeavor to broaden reflection and research about caricature by specific examples or methodological and theoretical reflection drawn from the history of those drawings in Quebec, to see how caricature carried and created the moods of a society in different periods of its history.

Moods of a society can be defined as the collective imaginaries: as they are different ways of representing the self and the other. Those moods can also be understood by the metaphor of an historical or political play, of which the main characters are the politicians, of course, who are still as of today the main inspiration of caricaturists. Hidden behind the caricatures drawn by those talented artists are social issues and power relationships which describe in details about the way a society may reflect upon itself through its evolution. Can a caricature’s impact be studied,and if so, how? This is a topic that should not be neglected and must be brought to light.

Reasoning about moods and humor of a society requires further works as specific studies may result in bringing a (forced) laugh to the reader about the past and present of Quebec and aquestioning about its future.It’s been said before, a picture is worth a thousand words. However one must be able to make the picture talk. In most cases, the pictures are only used to illustrate the text. Frequently, pictures are limited to the middle pages, set apart from the body of the text. In this issue, it will be the opposite. Not only will the pictures be closely related; they will also be at the center of texts and analysis. The purpose of it all is simple: to make the pictures talk… and to prick up our ears!

To submit a publishing project, please contact Alexandre Turgeon (alexandre.turgeon.2@ulaval.ca).

Deadline to submit a publishing project (400 words): April 1st 2013

Acceptation date for proposals: May 1st 2013

Submission date for articles: April 1st 2014 (to be published in 2015)

Recherches sociographiques publishes original study projects about Quebec and French Canada. Given its interdisciplinary nature, sociologists, historians, demographers, economists, anthropologists, political scientists and literary academics collaborate to the journal.

The issue will be published in French, but propositions and articles in English will be evaluated. Authors of accepted articles will have the responsibility to produce a professional translation of their article. Comparative studies are also welcome, providing that Quebec or French Canada is one of the two subjects of the study.

À l’émission Ideas de la CBC, une série de quatre épisodes sur la pensée de Jocelyn Létourneau

A journey into the subtle and provocative ideas of historian Jocelyn Létourneau. As a leader of a new wave of Quebec intellectuals, he rejects melancholic myths that portray Quebeckers as victims of their past, trapped by unfulfilled political dreams. His ideas on the resilience of Quebeckers and the complexity of their history breathe new life into old debates about Quebec’s identity, distinctiveness and destiny. In this new series, Jocelyn Létourneau talks with IDEAS producer Sara Wolch about his vision of the past, the implications of his thinking for students of history, and his hopes for the future of Quebec and Canada.

Les épisodes, diffusés en 2007.

Harmonizing Two of History Teaching’s Main Social Functions

Deux anciens de la Chaire, Paul Zanazanian et Sabrina Moisan cosignent un article publié cette semaine au sujet des professeurs d’histoire au Québec.

Paul Zanazanian & Sabrina MoisanHarmonizing Two of History Teaching’s Main Social Functions: Franco-Québécois History Teachers and Their Predispositions to Catering to Narrative DiversityEducation Sciences, 2012, (4), p. 255-275.

This article presents the Quebec ministry of education’s (MELS) strategy for diversifying the national historical narrative that is transmitted in the province’s History and Citizenship Education program as well as the manner in which Francophone national history teachers put this strategy into practice. In bringing research on their social representations and historical consciousness together, this paper looks at some of the main challenges that these teachers face when specifically harmonizing two of history teaching’s central social functions for catering to narrative diversity. When seeking to adequately balance the transmission of a national identity reference framework with the development of autonomous critical thinking skills, it becomes clear that these teachers’ general quest for positivist-type, true and objective visions of the past as well as their overall attachment to the main markers of their group’s collective memory for knowing and acting Québécois impede them from fully embracing the diversification of the province’s historical narrative. The article ends by raising some important questions regarding the relevance of assisting teachers to authentically develop their own voice and vision for harmonizing the two aforementioned functions of history teaching and for being answerable to the decisions they make when articulating and acting upon such beliefs in class.