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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: December 2019

1 - No Lasting City (1870–1930)


Chapter 1 follows the movement of voluntary migrants from the Russian Empire to Canada to Paraguay between 1870 and 1926. It shows that members of this cohort underwent a contentious process of integrating state citizenship and Mennonite unity into their collective narratives or rejecting it in favor of local narratives that prized religious separation. The chapter makes three contentions: First, it shows that Canadian officials transitioned from identifying Mennonites as enterprising and valuable German-speaking settlers in the 1870s – when they were promoting a narrative of Canadian national expansion – to identifying them as insular and subversive German-speaking dissidents in the 1920s – when they were promoting a narrative of Canadian national cohesion. Second, it demonstrates how Canada’s Mennonites developed contrasting narratives about Canadian citizenship. Associative Mennonites believed that God willed them to carve out a place within Canada’s national narrative. Separatists believed that God willed Mennonites to accept perpetual migration as a necessary burden of faith. Third, it contends that separatist Mennonites harnessed modern transnational technologies – such as transportation, communication, and financial systems – to secure the transchronological goal of living as early-modern subjects. In other words, separatist Mennonites used the tools of nationalism and modernity in an attempt to flee from them.