New book on territory, water and identity in Quebec

Caroline Desbiens has written a number of excellent articles on hydropower, Quebec nationalism and First Nations. And so I’m greatly looking forward to her new book, which is now out:

Power from the north: territory, identify and the culture of hydroelectricity in Quebec

From the publisher’s website:

About the Book 9780774824163

In the 1970s, Hydro-Quebec declared “We Are Hydro-Quebecois.” The publicity campaign slogan symbolized the extent to which hydroelectric development in the North had come to both reflect and fuel French Canada’s aspirations in the South. The slogan helped southerners relate to the province’s northern territory and to accept the exploitation of its resources.

In Power from the North, Caroline Desbiens explores how this culture of hydroelectricity helped shaped the material landscape during the first phase of the James Bay hydroelectric project. She analyzes the cultural forces that contributed to the transformation of the La Grande River into a hydroelectric complex. Policy makers and Quebecers did not, she argues, view those who built the dams as mere workers — they saw them as pioneers in a previously uninhabited landscape now inscribed with the codes of culture and spectacle.

This dynamic book reveals that drawing power from the North involves not only the cultural erasure of Aboriginal homelands but also rewriting the region’s history in the language of identity and territoriality. To reverse this trend, Desbiens calls for a truly sustainable resource management, one in which all actors bring an awareness of their own cultural histories and visions of nature, North, and nation to the negotiating table.

Caroline Desbiens is a professor of geography at Laval University. She holds the Canada Research Chair in Historical Geography of the North.

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