The Future at the Parliament of Quebec: Anthropological Reflections on Forms of Political Organization and Sovereignty
Samuel Shapiro (Université Laval)
Paper short abstract:
I use an institutional ethnography of the Parliament of Quebec to raise questions about the future direction of an entity whose political identity remains a question of fierce partisan debate. I contribute to broader anthropological debates about forms of political organization and sovereignty.
Paper long abstract:
I aim to contribute to this panel's interest in the role of emotions and rationalities in anticipating and imagining the future and senses of direction through a year-long ethnographic study of the Parliament of Quebec. Quebec demonstrates specific variations on three ongoing broader trends in politics today: (1) a reconfiguration of political forces (2) a broader questioning of sovereignty as the linchpin of politics and (3) new inflections of longstanding issues. Since the late 1990s or early 2000s, Quebec's political landscape has evolved in two broader ways that provides intriguing comparisons with nationalist populist movements, international institutions and transnational global governance. Namely, the longstanding debate over whether Quebec will or should be become politically and legally independent from Canada no longer subsumes almost every other issue. At the same time, Quebec has seen the rise of new political parties and the prominence of additional issues and cleavages in a society whose political elites on all sides of the provincial spectrum view as a "nation". As such, the Quebec case can allow us to rethink broader anthropological distinctions between sovereignty and independence as well as centre our focus on an infra-national form of political organization rarely studied as a political actor in its own right. At the same time, observing the reconfiguration of political forces from inside the confines of a parliament allows us to see how these partisan actors come to consensus, disagreement, bargaining and ambition on passionate issues new and old, including debates concerning Quebec's political identity.
Sense and sensibility: investments of emotion and rationality in the charting of future scenarios