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I approach the question of scales and political imaginaries through an exploration of how the Canadian province of Quebec is situated at the crossroads of several European and North American traditions. I discuss the relationship between the 2012 Quebec student strikes against the policies of then-Quebec premier Jean Charest and a welfare state model based on social protection, which is closer to that that found in France and several Scandinavian countries than in the rest of Canada. I then examine in depth how Quebec’s attempt to develop an alternative approach for the management of ethno-cultual diversity – often called interculturalism – has come to stand for a variety of political projects over time, despite using the same term to characterise them. Instead, interculturalism is a term which successive Quebec governments have long promoted but never defined nor explicitly framed as official policy. It is based on the power to regulate almost all migration into Quebec’s territory, which the provincial government has gradually acquired through a series of accords with the Canadian government from 1971 to 1991. I provide a detailed examination of the four main ‘phases’ of interculturalism since the 1970s. More generally, I offer reflections on how the Quebec case could help anthropology think through wider questions of institutionalisation, forms of government political culture and scale in order to understand political imaginaries.