Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10077/4302
Title: The power of apprehending ‘otherness’: cultural intermediaries as imperial agents in New France
Authors: Cohen, Paul
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Source: Paul Cohen, "The power of apprehending ‘otherness’: cultural intermediaries as imperial agents in New France", in Guido Abbattista (edited by), Encountering Otherness. Diversities and Transcultural Experiences in Early Modern European Culture, pp. 223-237.
Abstract: 
Facing ‘otherness’ was not merely an inevitable feature of life in France’s culturally diverse North American empire, it stood in some fundamental sense at its very center. While scholarship in recent years has shed crucial light on the importance of Amerindian-European relationships in the history of the early modern Americas, the goal of this article is to argue that scholars have not fully acknowledged the full and peculiar importance of coexistence in the case of New France. In particular, I argue that cultural intermediaries played an especially important role in French North America, and contributed to the establishment, extension and perpetuation of French imperial power in decisive ways. It is argued further that intermediaries’ particular prominence was specific to the French case, far surpassing that enjoyed by their counterparts in the other European powers’ spheres of American influence. The article presents two explanations for why cultural intermediaries enjoyed special prominence in New France. First, the very character of France’s presence in North America – sparsely populated French settlements in close proximity to Amerindian groups, commercial activity grounded in the fur trade, and missionary campaigns aimed at bringing the Christian gospel to the native populations of the Americas – guaranteed that French and Amerindian communities entered into a variety of strong relationships. Second, the character of the French presence in North America also defined an environment which made intermediaries’ skills invaluable. Go-betweens played a crucial role not only in making French-Amerindian coexistence possible, but in extending and sustaining French influence.
Type: Book Chapter
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10077/4302
ISBN: 978-88-8303-306-3
Appears in Collections:Encountering Otherness. Diversities and Transcultural Experiences in Early Modern European Culture

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