Canada's history of intense constitutional debate is often depicted as a source of national embarrassment--a wasteful diversion from more sensible endeavors. Misrecognized Materialists tells a different story. Focusing on the participation of Canadian social movements, it shows how constitutional politics became an arena for important concerns often excluded from traditional electoral and parliamentary politics.
Beginning with the Rowell-Sirois hearings of the Great Depression and concluding with the national wars of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Matt James guides readers through familiar milestones of constitutional politics from a new vantage point. Groups representing marginalized constituencies--women, working-class people, and ethnocultural minorities--were able to use the Canadian constitutional arena to pursue traditionally neglected aspirations and concerns. With concrete illustrations and case studies, James questions the common tendency to interpret recognition struggles as departures from traditional "materialist" priorities such as economic security and personal safety. Ultimately, he argues that such materialist priorities were, in fact, at the heart of the fight for recognition for many marginalized groups.
A book with provocative implications for students and scholars of social movements and identity politics, Misrecognized Materialists offers a fresh and important perspective on Canada's constitutional struggles over civic symbolism and identity.