Unsettling the White Noise: Deconstructing the Nation-Building Project of CBC Radio One’s Canada Reads
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The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Canada Reads program, based on the popular television show Survivor, welcomes five Canadian personalities to defend one Canadian book, per year, that they believe all Canadians should read. The program signifies a common discourse in Canada as a nation-state regarding its own lack of coherent and fixed identity, and can be understood as a nationalist project. I am working with Canada Reads as an existing archive, utilizing materials as both individual and interconnected entities in a larger and ongoing process of cultural production – and it is important to note that it is impossible to separate cultural production from cultural consumption. Each year offers a different set of insights that can be consumed in their own right, which is why this project is written in the present tense. Focusing on the first ten years of the Canada Reads competition, I argue that Canada Reads plays a specific and calculated role in the CBC’s goal of nation-building: one that obfuscates repressive national histories and legacies and instead promotes the transformative powers of literacy as that which can conquer historical and contemporary inequalities of all types. This research lays bare the imagined and idealized ‘communities’ of Canada Reads audiences that the CBC wishes to reflect in its programming, and complicates this construction as one that abdicates contemporary responsibilities of settlers.