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Finding links between separatisms

MacKay Lecture Series starts Thursday

- February 12, 2014

Separatist movements spanning the Atlantic. (Creative Services image)
Separatist movements spanning the Atlantic. (Creative Services image)

Canadians are no strangers to separatist debates, but they may not necessarily be as familiar with the stories behind emerging separatist movements across the Atlantic.

With the last few years bringing electoral successes for dormant or slow-moving separatist causes in Scotland and Catalonia (Spain), this year’s MacKay Lecture Series at Dal offers an opportunity to draw connections between these movements and Canada’s experience with Quebec separatism.

Each year, the MacKay Lectures bring four internationally renowned speakers to campus to deliver talks focused on topics in the liberal and performing arts. Titled “European and Canadian Separatisms,” this year’s series is organized by Jerry White, associate professor in the Department of English and the Canada Research Chair in European Studies.

Learn more: MacKay Lecture Series website

The first lecture takes place this Thursday (7:30 p.m., Scotiabank Auditorium, McCain Building) and features Gérard Bouchard, best known for his role on Quebec’s Bouchard-Taylor Commission (proper name: “Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences.”)

“He was a major intellectual figure before the commission, and those two years in the public spotlight really added to that,” says Dr. White. “The report they [Bouchard and Taylor] wrote together basically predicted the current crisis that is unfolding about the Quebec Charter of Values.”

Dr. Bouchard, the Canada Research Chair in the Comparative Study of Collective Imaginations at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, will speak on “Myths, Nations and Collective Imaginations: A New Frontier for Cultural Research.”

Connections across continents

The series then continues on March 5 with Scottish author, poet and translator Christopher Whyte, discussing “The Language of Incomprehension: How Not to Be a Minority Language Writer.” That talk will be followed on March 12 by Ferran Requejo Coll, a professor of political science from Barcelona, who will explore the separatist movement in Catalonia.

“They’re three places that are in the news a lot these days,” says Dr. White, discussing what ties the series together. “Quebec’s separatism movement seems to always be with us, like death and taxes. Scotland is gearing up for a referendum on independence in September of this year and Catalonia has a nationalist government at the moment and has been trying to organize a referendum for the last two years or so, even though the Spanish government has explicitly forbade them to do so.

“This is a chance for people to get more of a sense of what’s going on in these three places they’ve probably heard about,” he says, adding that attendees will be able to see some common themes emerge, including the role of minority languages and tensions within federalism.

The series concludes on March 20 with the MacKay History Lecture, recognizing the donation of Gladys MacKay that funded the series in appreciation of the history education her husband (the Reverend Malcolm Ross MacKay) received at Dalhousie. The lecture by Roger Mason (Department of History, University of St. Andrews), an expert in political thought and culture in early modern Scotland, will discuss “Dis-united kingdoms? Debating Britain in Seventeenth-Century Scotland.”

For more on the entire MacKay Lecture Series, visit its website.


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