Power from the North

Territory, Identity, and the Culture of Hydroelectricity in Quebec

Caroline Desbiens

  • Published: 2013. Paperback 2014
  • Subject Listing: History
  • Bibliographic information: 312 pp., 24 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: US rights only
  • Distributed for: UBC Press
  • Contents

In the 1970s, Hydro-Quebec declared in a publicity campaign "We Are Hydro-Quebecois." The slogan symbolized the intimate ties that had emerged between hydroelectric development in Northern Quebec and French Canadian national aspirations. Caroline Desbiens focuses on the first phase of the James Bay hydroelectric project to explore how this culture of hydroelectricity marginalized Aboriginal territories through the manipulation of Northern Quebec's material landscape. She concludes that truly sustainable resource development will depend on all actors bringing an awareness of their 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.

"Power from the North is a much-needed reinterpretation of Quebec's relationship with its north. Desbiens's sophisticated critique of nationalist, heroic narratives inherent in the earlier James Bay projects argues persuasively that development has been both an aspect of the modern technocratic state and a troubling legacy of colonialism in Quebec. This timely historical geography speaks directly to this legacy, as well as to current political rhetoric about the North."
-Hans M. Carlson, author of Home Is the Hunter: The James Bay Cree and Their Land

"As society struggles to find a balance between economic security and environmental well-being and grapples with the various challenges posed by social and environmental injustices, the freighted implications of popular ideas of the North need to be better understood. Power from the North can and should help with this."
-Graeme Wynn, from the Foreword

Foreword: Ideas of North / Graeme Wynn

Introduction: Looking North

Part 1. Power and the North
1. The Nexus of Hydroelectricity in Quebec

2. Discovering a New World: James Bay as Eeyou Istchee

Part 2. Writing the Land
3. Who Shall Convert the Wilderness into a Flourishing Country?

4. From the Roman de la Terre to the Roman des.Ressources

Part 3. Rewriting the Land
5. Pioneers

6. Workers

7. Spectators

Conclusion: Ongoing Stories and Powers from the North

Selected Bibliography