Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Privatizing the National Identity

Jul 23, 2013

The new issue (#89) of Geist magazine is making its way onto newsstands. It contains my column about a new book, Desiring Canada (UofT Press), that takes on the always vexing topic of national identity.

The authors, Patricia Cormack and James Cosgrave, are both sociologists, which means that the book can be a little heavy-going at times, but it is worth the effort for its provocative discussion of several aspects of our popular culture (CBC, hockey, Tim Hortons) and the way they play into the nation-building enterprise.

From my column: "In a consumer society...the state itself is a product like any other. It must market itself and its services to its own citizens. But this is a tall order, and one for which the state is not always suited, so it forms a partnership with the private sector and hands over to corporations a greater degree of responsibility for mobilizing the public in support of national ideals. In other words, national identity is privatized."