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Conferences & lectures

Beheading the Saint: Nationalism, Religion, and Secularism in Quebec

A Book Talk by Geneviève Zubrzycki

Date & time

Thursday, March 2, 2017
12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.


Geneviève Zubrzycki






Mireille Paquet


J.W. McConnell Building
1400 De Maisonneuve W. Room LB-362 (Webster Library Seminar Room)

Wheelchair accessible


* Presentation in English. Discussion in English and French.

Through much of its existence, Québec’s neighbors called it the “priest-ridden province.” Today, however, Québec society is staunchly secular, with a modern welfare state built on lay provision of social services—a transformation rooted in the “Quiet Revolution” of the 1960s.

In Beheading the Saint, Geneviève Zubrzycki studies that transformation through a close investigation of the annual Feast of St. John the Baptist of June 24. The celebrations of that national holiday, she shows, provided a venue for a public contesting of the dominant ethno-Catholic conception of French Canadian identity and, via the violent rejection of Catholic symbols, the articulation of a new, secular Québécois identity. From there, Zubrzycki extends her analysis to the present, looking at the role of Québécois identity in recent debates over immigration, the place of religious symbols in the public sphere, and the politics of cultural heritage—issues that also offer insight on similar debates elsewhere in the world.

Biography of author:

Geneviève Zubrzycki is a comparative-historical and cultural sociologist who studies national identity and religion, collective memory and national mythology, and the contested place of religious symbols in the public sphere. Her work combines historical and ethnographic methods, and considers evidence from material and visual culture.

Her first book, the award-winning The Crosses of Auschwitz: Nationalism and Religion in Post-Communist Poland  (University of Chicago Press, 2006) was translated into Polish in 2014 (Nomos). Her second book, Beheading the Saint: Nationalism, Religion and Secularism in Quebec (University of Chicago Press, 2016) is a historical ethnography and visual sociology of the formation and transformation of national identity in Quebec.

Professor Zubrzycki is the director of the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia, which includes the Center for European Studies; Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies; and Copernicus Program in Polish Studies. She is also a faculty affiliate of the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies.


Décapiter le saint : le nationalisme, la religion et la laïcité au Québec

* Présentation en anglais. Discussion en français et l'anglais.

Le Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire sur la diversité et la démocratie (CRIDAQ) vous invite à assister à la présentation de la sociologue Geneviève Zubrzycki (University of Michigan) sur son livre Beheading the Saint: Nationalism, Religion, and Secularism in Quebec (University of Chicago Press, 2016). L’auteure mène une enquête approfondie sur la fête annuelle de Saint-Jean-Baptiste afin de mieux comprendre la transformation de l’identité québécoise depuis la Révolution tranquille. Elle discutera aussi du rôle de l’identité québécoise dans les récents débats sur l’immigration, la présence de signes religieux dans la sphère publique ainsi que sur les politiques du patrimoine culturel.

ENG Geneviève Zubrzycki V2
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