A (Queer) Souvenir of Canada: Douglas Coupland’s Transformative National Symbols


While Douglas Coupland has often been accused of conservative or even reactionary impulses in his art and writing, this article rebalances such claims by theorizing precisely what is at stake in his appropriations of consumer and popular national culture (partiularly in his Souvenir of Canada series). Rather than simply being an easy way of appealing to mass audiences, Coupland borrows received national symbols and performs what Nicky Gregson and Louise Crewe call "rituals of transformation"—activities of actively reimagining and reshaping popular cultural symbols. For him, these transformations signify an opportunity to reduce the alienation produced by coercive and stereotypical national symbols. His mass recirculation of these transformed national symbols suggest a queering of the idea of nation, and reflect a well thought-out effort to destabilize national symbols, leaving them more open to future reinterpretation.

This article “A (Queer) Souvenir of Canada: Douglas Coupland’s Transformative National Symbols” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 216 (Spring 2013): 35-49.

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