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Sean William Mills

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The John Bullen Prize

2009

Sean William Mills. “The Empire Within: Montreal, the Sixties, and the Forging of a Radical Imagination” (Department of History – Queen’s University).

Sean William Mills explores the history of radical leftist intellectuals and activists in Montreal during the 1960s. Within the effervescence and agitation that characterize their thought and action during this period, he brilliantly untangles the common threads, discerning an overall unity. He demonstrates how, from 1963 to 1972, Third World decolonization theories were adapted to the Quebec setting and inspired struggles for the liberation of Quebec. Several groups of activists, both Francophone and Anglophone, aligned their specific claims to this shared theoretical outlook, thereby constituting a dynamic movement of anti-colonial resistance. Promoters of unilingualism, of Black Power, of women’s liberation, and labor radicalism were thus, for a time, united around a vast project of decolonizing Quebec. This alignment of forces proved to be temporary, and dissolved in the 1970s when activists were faced with the ambiguities and contradictions that resulted from applying decolonization theory – a theory initially developed for Third World countries – to Quebec. Sean W. Mills thus offers a new look at the relationships between groups whose causes were otherwise quite diverse. Moreover, he reveals that the radicalism of the period in Quebec must be understood in the context of international intellectual currents and political action, demonstrating that the history of “the West” was strongly influenced by its relations with the Third World.