Ambivaland: cultural ambivalence in Newfoundland

Rangsch, Rona (2024) Ambivaland: cultural ambivalence in Newfoundland. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This project revalues the often underrated concept of ambivalence as a distinct concept pregnant with creative potentialities and applies it to settler Newfoundland culture as a research lens. In the process, our understanding and image of the place are enriched by reinterpreting a collection of charged contexts, which have hitherto been considered little related, as belonging to a pervasive and potentially creative web of cultural ambivalence. Contexts studied include the European colonization of the island, the precariousness in Newfoundland outports, the Smallwood era's sociopolitical tangle, clashes between resource exploitation and love of the land, settler Newfoundlanders' non-singular colonial identity, and the place's puzzling quality as both centre and periphery. In terms of research questions, the project asks what a meaningful and productive understanding of ambivalence looks like and how it can be used to develop a richer understanding of settler Newfoundland. Methodologically, the research is based on discourse analysis with a focus on problematization, abductive reasoning, transversality, and speculation. These approaches share the capacity to open alternative trajectories of reasoning through the radical questioning or active ignoring of existing explanatory systems. This tenor is imperative for a project that attempts to reshuffle both the conceptual and interpretive packs by using an undervalued concept (ambivalence) to re-map a jagged terrain (an array of tensions in settler Newfoundland). Conceptual key findings include the unambiguity of ambivalence and its overlap with creativity. Within the Newfoundland case study, the lens of cultural ambivalence challenges supposedly demarcated spheres of agency and power in both colonial and postcolonial spheres and exposes Newfoundlanders' enhanced capacity for creativity. Moreover, it allows me to debunk a number of persistent myths and to provide others with actual content. Finally, by assembling a variety of contexts not studied in this constellation before under the umbrella of cultural ambivalence, I am able to identify correlations that have previously gone unnoticed or underappreciated. The resulting web of ambivalence provides a rhizomatic explanatory grid that establishes a creative facet of the place and exposes new leverage points for addressing cultural tensions. This recommends cultural ambivalence as a potent prism for borderlands with complex colonial histories more generally.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 16508
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 266-299)
Keywords: ambivalence, Newfoundland, settler culture, cultural tensions, borderland
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Anthropology
Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Humanities
Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Sociology
Date: May 2024
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Ambivalence--Newfoundland and Labrador

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