Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
Drawing on Lindstrom’s (1993) comparison of cargo cults in Melanesia to contemporary Western economic ideology and Otto’s (1992; 1999) argument that cargo cult discourse is “good to think with” in relation to Western economies, this paper argues that support for many proposed economic or resource development projects in the Canadian province of New Brunswick can be meaningfully conceptualized through the lens of cargoism. New Brunswick is one of Canada’s poorest and most rural provinces, and supporters of economic development initiatives spearheaded by outsiders often portray these projects as forms of economic salvation that will restore fiscal order to the province and financial well-being to its citizens. In reality, these short-lived projects have not met expectations. This paper examines the "discourse of cargoism" during the buzz phase of four projects over the last fifty years, all of which have promised to improve the province and the welfare of New Brunswickers. The Bricklin automobile in the 1970s, shale gas exploration and the Energy East pipeline in the 2010s, and the ongoing discourse surrounding a proposed Sisson Brook Mine in Central New Brunswick. In each case, not only do the discourses surrounding recent projects resonate with discourses surrounding earlier projects, but each is an example of a situation where large-scale projects are seen as forms of salvation. This paper concludes by suggesting those concerned with the buzz phase of large-scale projects should scrutinize narratives of inevitable progress and prosperity, which so rarely materialize.