If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?: Finding Common Ground


271 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-676-97491-0
DDC 398'.09




Reviewed by Ryan M. Higgitt

Ryan M. Higgitt is a graduate student studying sociology (with an
interest in human-computer interaction and linguistics) at Concordia
University in Montreal.


Discourse surrounding the connections between the unfixed nature of
language and regimes of truth and reality is predominantly limited to
explicitly poststructuralist theoretical realms. Rarely do academic
works in the disciplines of cultural studies, sociology, or critical
theory foray into the more lay terrain we traverse on a day-to-day
basis. In this book, J. Edward Chamberlin makes such a journey into the
“beautifully mundane,” illuminating, challenging, and complementing
the basics tenets of postmodernism without even using the word.

Employing a straightforward yet eloquent style of writing to bring the
abstract to ground, Chamberlin brilliantly guides our line of sight in
ways that make the fluidity of human cultures recognizable and
comprehensible. In “Them and Us,” we are shown the fundamental
challenge intrinsic to the quality or condition of being human: to
“believe it and not,” rather than “believe it or not.” In
revealing the contradictions inherent within both the most simple of
children’s poems and the most complex of cosmological theories,
Chamberlin allows us to see the importance of such a challenge and how
in forgetting it we risk ideology oppressing myth, dogma transcending
religion, and conflict usurping community.

In “Reality and the Imagination,” Chamberlin stresses that this
challenge—found throughout every society and every culture in the
world, in songs and stories and art and craft—is a function of
language as a perennial contradiction. Borrowing freely from any
particular discipline he sees fit, he shows us how language is at once
strange and familiar.

The book’s title is somewhat misleading, because If This Is Your
Land, Where Are Your Stories? is less about Aboriginal land claims than
it is about the lamenting of the human species. Yet, fittingly, this is
a book about land claims and also an exultation of humanity—a
contradiction that must surely bring a smile to the author’s face.


Chamberlin, J. Edward., “If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?: Finding Common Ground,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/17906.