How islands shape political identity

Mon, Oct 15, 2018

The way land can shape political identity is explored by a Kwantlen Polytechnic University instructor in her new book launched today (Oct. 15).

In Une île, une nation? (One island, one nation?), Dr. Valérie Vézina examines the sense of identity that exists among people living on islands and how that affects their political perspectives.

“Nationalism studies have ignored territory as a factor and I am bringing that back in,” she says. “To be an island surrounded by water matters, it’s important. Being on an island affects how people describe who they are.”

In her book, Dr. Vézina develops an analytical tool which adds territory to the political, cultural and economic perspectives more commonly used to analyze nationalism. She uses this tool to study national identity in Newfoundland and Puerto Rico.

“I had a feeling in Newfoundland that people think differently and act differently. They had a sense of pride that’s different,” she says. “I analyzed the different factors to see how strong they are in people seeking to be treated differently.”

She focused Une île, une nation? on islands attached to federal or confederate governments to explore the role island exceptionalism plays in interactions in the larger political sphere and how it emerges to deal with challenges presented by island living.

Her work could have implications for policymakers considering whether to build a bridge to an island or looking at the effects of climate change.

“If an island disappears, would that nation still exist without a territory?” she asks.