Imagining Difference is an ethnography about historical and contemporary ideas of human difference expressed by residents of Fernie, BC - a coal-mining town transforming into an international ski resort. Focusing on diverse experiences of people from the European diaspora, Robertson analyzes expressions of difference from the multiple locations of age, ethnicity, gender, class, and religion. Her starting point is a popular local legend about an indigenous curse cast on the valley and its residents in the nineteenth century. Successive interpretations of the story reveal a complicated landscape of memory and silence, mapping out official and contested histories, social and scientific theories as well as the edicts of political discourse. Cursing becomes a metaphor for discursive power resonating in political, popular, and cultural contexts, transmitting ideas of difference across generations and geographies.
Stories are powerful imaginative resources in the contexts of colonialism, war, immigration, labour strife, natural disaster, treaty-making, and globalization.This study suggests that while criteria may shift, ideas of "race" and "foreignness," expressions of regionalism, and class and religious identity remain fixed in the social imagination.
The author draws from folklore, media imagery, historical records, and interviews; field notes and verbatim accounts provide readers with a sense of the ethnographic process. While situated historically and socially in Fernie, BC, this work will appeal to those in anthropology, women's studies, Native studies, and history, as well as to regional readers and anyone interested in life in resource towns in North America.