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Representing islandness : myth, memory, and modernisation in Prince Edward Island McCabe, Shauna


This research addresses the role of local artistic practices in the symbolic interpretation and contestation of modernisation, in the expression of what Pred and Watts (1992) have called a "multiplicity of modernities". In particular, the research examines the localised experience of place identity among creative artists in the landscape of Prince Edward Island. The research integrates and extends recent work exploring the place-making qualities of cultural expression and their attendant "imagined geographies," and their mediation of political-economic and cultural flows which have national and global dimensions. Prince Edward Island presents a powerful metaphor for the inextricability o f the local and the global in the complex recent reconfiguration of tradition and culture. In Prince Edward Island, thoroughly represented as "home place" within cultural practice as well as the international tourism industry, the presence and activity of cultural producers themselves is inescapably part of a wider trend centred upon the aestheticisation and commodification of the landscape. Expressions of local identity have found increasing manifestation in tourism, as in the wider contemporary landscape of the Maritime region, where a prevalent trend has been towards deindustrialisation and rural gentrification as places shift from being centres of production to sites for tourist consumption. Exploring the interface of art and geography, this discussion focuses on three cases of artistic practice in Prince Edward Island that indicate that in the construction of a romantic ideal of "home place" and homeland, the cultural practices of artists may offer contested and critical constructions of identity, culture and memory. As such they evoke alternative trajectories of modernisation. Confronting a transforming landscape, artistic works represent local identity and memory. The cases show that although these practices may operate within cultures of consumption, the cultural practice of artists and the geographies they sustain may be sites where a fundamental symbolic struggle is waged over identity and memory, over the meaning and representation of place and of "home" in a world of consumption.

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