Culture and the Canada-US Border

“Culture and the Canada-US Border” is an international research network funded by the Leverhulme Trust, based at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Our partner institutions are the University of Nottingham, the University of BuffaloAlgoma University and Mount Royal University.

The US-Mexico border is generally thought of as representing a linguistic, ethnic and economic divide—a line of brutal juxtaposition between two nations, and the point at which, Gloria Anzaldúa has noted, ‘the Third World grates against the First and bleeds’. But how do we perceive the Canada-US border, traditionally celebrated as the longest undefended border in the world? While border studies in North America has hitherto focused primarily on US engagement with Mexico to the south, the CCUSB network seeks to shift border discussion North to the 49th parallel, and to investigate the representation of the border in both American and Canadian culture and cultural production.As part of our research, we are asking a number of questions:

  • How far North can we take the insights produced by US-Mexico border studies—or do we need different theories altogether for a different border?
  • If the Canada-US border features prominently in Canada’s sense of national identity, how does it figure further south?
  • How is the meaning of this border challenged by, for example, Quebec nationalism, or indigenous peoples for whom the border is illegitimate?How might closer scrutiny of the Canada-US border, particularly after 9/11, affect the way both nation-states are perceived globally? Have apprehensions of US-Canadian sameness/difference been altered or reinforced?
  • What are the cultural implications of the Canada-US border in Canadian and/or American literature, television, cinema, visual art, music, and other cultural forms.

Canada, and Canadian Studies scholarship, is often overlooked within the broader field of American Studies, despite recent insistence on the field’s ‘transnational’ turn. This interdisciplinary network seeks to rectify this oversight. And while the majority of Canada-US border research has, thus far, fallen within the remit of the social sciences, we seek to place a new emphasis on culture and cultural production, engaging with, for example, literature, architecture or visual art, political and social cultures, and shifting cultural understandings of identity and nationality.

Visit the project website via this link.