Anna Carastathis

Postes occupés

2008-2009 Stagiaire postdoctoral-e,


Politics of Inclusion and Exclusion in Québec’s ‘Reasonable Accommodation’ Discourse

My postdoctoral research at CRÉUM concerned gendered-racialized discourses of cultural difference, tolerance, and integration.

This project was funded jointly by CRÉUM and by le Groupe de recherche interuniversitaire en philosophie politique (GRIPP).

Research summary:

I am examining the recent debate sparked by the so-called «crisis in accommodation» of immigrant, minoritized, and racialized cultural and religious communities by the francophone cultural majority in Québec. At the fulcrum of this debate is the Québec Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences (2007-2008), led by Gérard Bouchard (a sociologist) and Charles Taylor (a political philosopher). In May 2008, Bouchard and Taylor submitted their report to the Québec government, «Building the Future: A Time for Reconciliation» based on their extensive public consultation. I am analyzing this report, the Commission proceedings, media representations, activist and community-based interventions, and the public discourse on «reasonable accommodation» using a variety of applied philosophical methods (including discourse analysis, interviews, etc.)

This research has two prongs.

1. First, I am examining the relationship between a xenophobic discourse on immigration which construes cultural difference as a threat, on the one hand, and the legitimacy crisis facing the colonial national society, on the other. Québec is a white settler society founded on the expropriation of Indigenous people, a fact elided by the Commission’s assertion that questions of Indigenous self-determination fell outside the scope of their investigation. In general, the relationship between Canada’s policy of official multiculturalism (or, interculturalism, Québec’s answer to Canadian multiculturalism) and its colonial policies toward Indigenous people is undertheorized. Both constitute projects of governance, which pit racialized, immigrant, and Indigenous people against one another, even as these groups could be said to share a common interest in decolonizing Canada. Through this site-specific research, I hope to illuminate some of the dynamics of inclusion in, and exclusion from ethnically heterogeneous settler societies, and to point toward some normative possibilities for coalitional political organizing among Indigenous and immigrant groups.

2. The second prong of my research concerns ideologies about gender, culture, and women’s emancipation that emerge from this discourse. The popular, mediatized debate on «reasonable accommodation» focused obsessively on Muslim women’s bodies, and on what the state feminist organization Le Conseil du statut de la femme (CSF) termed their «ostentatious» display of religious observance. To demonstrate its commitment to religious neutrality, the CSF argued that the state should ban all «ostentatious» religious signs from public institutions, including those worn by public employees. The CSF further argued that the right to gender equality « a professed core value of Québec society » should be given relative or contextual priority over the right to religious expression in the Québec Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I assess these two proposals, contextualizing them in a history of imperialist feminisms, and specifically in their role in constituting the west as «enlightened». I explore whether, and if so how western feminists can enter into debates about multiculturalism and women’s rights, while remaining conscious of the gendered racism that structures this discursive field.

Politiques d’inclusion et d’exclusion dans le discours Québecois sur les « accommodements raisonnables » (Résumé)

Dans ce projet, je compte envisager comment la xénophobie joue, dans les sociétés de colons blancs, le rôle de discours de justification du colonialisme. Par « discours de justification », j’entends une configuration des pratiques et des actes de parole qui rationalisent et reproduisent des structures de pouvoir. Je prendrai comme paradigme le discours des « accommodements raisonnables » au Québec. Spécifiquement, j’analyserai les représentations qu’ont dépeint les médias de la Commission de consultation sur les pratiques d’accommodement reliés aux différences culturelles (2007-2008, menée par les coprésidents Gérard Bouchard et Charles Taylor); le rapport final de la Commission; ainsi que des analyses théoriques des questions sur « l’accommodement », l’intégration, et la tolérance dans les états multinationaux et multiculturels. Ce faisant, je cernerai la question : quels sont les rapports entre le colonialisme, l’immigration et la politique du multiculturalisme et de l’interculturalisme, autant au Canada qu’au Québec? En particulier, le protectionnisme culturel sert-il à éviter la question fondamentale de la légitimité de la société nationale? Étant donné la manière dont les immigrantes sont situées au coeur de ces problèmes, j’envisagerai comment les féministes peuvent se joindre aux discussions portant sur l’inclusion et l’exclusion au sein de la société nationale.

Research Interests:

  • Political theory (specifically feminist, critical race, anti-colonial and postcolonial theories)
  • Phenomenology
  • Political economy

Broadly speaking, my research thematizes the relation between systems of oppression, political representation, and the embodiment and perception of visible differences produced by dominance.


  • Ph.D. in philosophy, McGill University

Dissertation: «Feminism and the political economy of representation: intersectionality, invisibility and embodiment»

  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours), University of Alberta

I currently teach part-time at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University. In the Winter Term 2009, I am teaching a course on Intersectionality.


téléphone: 514.343.6111 x 2932

Courriel/E-mail: acarastathis [at]