The goal of this Research Chair is to analyze collective imaginaries in a comparative perspective : how they are created, how they are structured, how they get transformed over time and how they are fed by myths. The concept of collective imaginary refers to the body of symbolic landmarks through which any collectivity inserts itself in time and space. This process involves the establishment of six relationships :
- A relationship to space, resulting in a territoriality, a home
- A relationship to Self and to Other, giving shape to an identity
- A relationship to the past, which is expressed in a collective memory
- A relationship to the future, which is expressed in utopias or dystopias
- A relationship to the social that bestows a status in a hierarchy of prestige
- A relationship to life and to the universe, which generates primary ontological meanings
The research agenda comprises two subfields. Both of them are structured around the concept of myths :
1. Within the arena of collective imaginaries, Bouchard’s research focuses on discursive practices (strategies) involved in the construction of any system of thought, the latter being defined as a combination of reason and myth. Indeed, at the outset of any discursive endeavour, reason is confronted with contradiction. In order to overcome this pitfall, reason mobilizes myths. This process is not always successful, which elicits a variety of scenarios or situations from which it becomes possible to build typologies.
This analytical background opens promising perspectives to cultural research in various societies and time periods. As always, the goal of the comparison is to bring out similitudes, recurrences, common processes, if not a kind of grammar. A close attention is also given to the social correlates of collective imaginaries, which raises the general question of the articulation between the cultural and the social. As expected, the investigations underway cover a large area of disciplines (anthropology, sociology, philosophy, theology, history, literature).
Among the major issues which underline the research program, let’s mention : How to account for the emergence and the reproduction of structures of thought in a given society at a particular moment of its history ? Which factors (internal, external) explain the transformations that occur in the structures of the collective imaginaries ? What are the major forms of alliance between reason and myth ? What role does myth perform in a collective imaginary ? How does change operates within an imaginary ? How to characterize and distinguish the case of routine adaptation, structural transition, crisis ? Are the cultures of the Western societies nowadays experiencing a crisis ? In a pluralistic and civic society, is it possible to build a culture without resorting to myths ? What are in our societies the capacity to build new myths?
2. My second area of research focuses on social myths as a universal sociological mechanism. According to the basic idea, these myths are created in specific contexts by social (or collective) actors who promote and use them as to advance their agenda, which calls for a close attention to the power relations dimension.
One question lies at the heart of the analysis: how to account for the fact that an idea, a message, manages to acquire an outstanding reach in a population, in such a way as to exhibit a social efficacy that allows it weighs heavily on the course of the society. I suggest that social myths may help a society to:
- Mobilize toward common goals
- Carry out changes while maintaining a sense of continuity
- Manage tensions and conflicts, overcome divisions
- Respond energetically in a situation of crisis or trauma
But one must also acknowledge that, in the opposite direction, social myths can also foster deceptions, enduring divisions and violent conflicts.
Be that as it may, all those issues closely tie in with culture -more specifically the symbolic foundation of a society, mostly made up of myths.
- Theoritical research on the structure and the functioning of collective imaginaries with an emphasis on social myths
The place of myths in collective imaginaries and in society.
- Comparative study of national myths
What is the state of national myths? Are they still useful? What functions do they perform? Is there a future for national myths in the postmodern era?
- The Quebec Quiet Revolution of the 1960s
Analysis, from a cultural perspective, of the changes that took place – and those which did not. The Quiet Revolution : a radical societal overhaul? an unfinished business? an overblown imaginary?
- The Myths of European Union
Does Europa suffers from an excess or a deficit of myths?