Between islands of ethnicity and shared landscapes: rethinking settler society, cultural landscapes and the study of the Canadian West


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This article reviews and rethinks the study of cultural landscapes in the context of western Canadian settlement history. The historiography of scholarship on the colonial period, across a broad array of disciplines, follows themes central to the study of continuity and change in settler societies, including assimilation, cultural revivalism and transnationalism. Influenced by historical conditions particular to the region, namely, the creation of migrant block settlements and a legacy of multiculturalism, research has had a longstanding commitment to an ethnic history paradigm, which tends to orient our understanding of the cultural landscape in terms of what Brubaker and Cooper have called identity history'. We argue that by focusing on relationships rather than boundaries, future research on the cultural dimension of settlement might move beyond ethnic history through investigating the possibilities of shared landscapes and communities of practice, built on the back of finding common material solutions to the problems of agrarian life.



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