English Canadians seldom see themselves - and are seldom seen by other Canadians - as an ethnic group. Pauline Greenhill suggests that this is because Canadians believe that the expressive culture of both mainstream English and English-origin groups lacks a carnivalesque component - an essential element in the Canadian idea of ethnicity. In Ethnicity in the Mainstream she argues that Canadian English culture is indeed carnivalesque and, like that of other ethnic groups, is selected, emergent, and invented, not appropriated intact from the old world. She also explores uses of power in contexts of ethnic expression.
Greenhill presents three studies from the perspective of a folklorist and within the framework of feminist analysis. Loosely linked by the theme of power and discussion of carnivalesque elements of traditional and popular culture, these studies examine immigrants' narratives about adjusting to life in Canada; Morris dancing as practised by Forest City Morris of London, Ontario; and actions and responses of promoters and residents to the development of the Shakespeare festival in Stratford, Ontario. Greenhill notes that because the English are perceived as lacking carnivalesque traditions, their position vis-à-vis other ethnic groups has been defined solely in terms of power, and demonstrates that concepts of power and entitlement are inextricably bound up in English self-definition. She concludes by examining the implications for social scientific practice of an insider studying her own culture and the political ramifications of such studies for a pluralistic, multicultural society such as Canada.
Greenhill's methods, concepts, and conclusions have much to offer practitioners in the fields of folklore, Canadian studies, ethnic studies, anthropology, and women's studies.