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Performing Canadian state nationalism through federal symmetry

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-84
JournalNationalism and Ethnic Politics
Volume26
Issue number1
Early online date19 Feb 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Feb 2020

Abstract

In the growing literature on the management of differences in multinational states, institutions (such as territorial autonomy or power-sharing) are typically understood as means through which various stakeholders achieve their goals. This scholarship is largely silent on the expressive and symbolic dimensions of those institutions. This is a major oversight, limiting our understanding of the politics of multinational states. I demonstrate the importance of institutional meaning by exploring the politics of federal a/symmetry in Canada, particularly in response to Quebec’s demands for greater recognition. The article’s central argument is that formal federal symmetry expresses and symbolically reproduces Canadian state nationalism. Attention to the symbolic dimension of state institutions—including federal ones—has the potential to open up new avenues of understanding of both the politics of institutional change in multinational states and the impact such change might have on the stability and inclusiveness of those states.

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