Localizing Rural Acadian Identities: Social and Ethnic Reproduction in Pomquet, Nova Scotia
MacLeod, Katie K.
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This dissertation is an ethnographic study detailing how ethnic identities are reproduced in Pomquet, a rural Acadian community in Eastern Nova Scotia. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Acadian nationalist project and Nova Scotia tourism industry significantly reshaped Acadian popular memory. In exploring ethnicity within this Francophone minority group in Atlantic Canada, the work engages with the past and the present to illustrate how national understandings of identity create identity tensions locally. Pomquet, due to its political economy and rural landscape, was on the margins of both nationalist and tourism processes. I argue that these points of tension create space where Acadians can attend to and draw upon the individual, local, and national layers that account for ethnic reproduction. This project combined ethnography, interviews, life histories, and archival research to highlight the critical role gendered practices of social reproduction played in the development and maintenance of everyday ethnicity in Pomquet. Using the sites of education, foodwork, and community space, I demonstrate how community members reproduced culture and identities that deviate from mainstream “Acadianness.” Examining local narratives through the lens of popular memory and a gendered critique of nationalism revealed that social and cultural reproductive practices play a more crucial role in the continuation of ethnicity in a rural Acadian community than the national ideology. The case of Pomquet is illuminating because of it is place at the margins of the nationalist movement. Women predominantly maintained their Acadianness in the domestic sphere through food, education, language, heritage, and gathering together. These findings indicate the importance of paying attention to gender in understanding historically marginalized populations and to the diversity within ethnic identities. It provides insight into a linguistic minority’s capacity to preserve and sustain a local history and identity through effective community organization, even when adequate support is unavailable. Further, it shows the vital need to consider the local needs in providing service, support, and funding, especially in rural contexts.