Foto: Matthias Friel
In 2009, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared that Canada ”ha[s] no history of colonialism. So we have all the things that many people admire about the great powers but none of the things that threaten or bother them” (O’Keefe). This statement is not only inaccurate but actively disavows Canada’s long history of genocide—an attempted silencing that echoes in master narratives of Canada as the ”North Star,” as a non-violent, postcolonial nation-state, and as a model of immigration and multiculturalism, often constructed by means of contrasting Canada with its southern neighbor, the United States.
In this class we will read contemporary Black Canadian literatures against the background of historical and present-day contexts of Black lives and political struggles in Canada. The diverse works of authors such as Dionne Brand, David Chariandy, Austin Clarke, and M. NourbeSe Philip, among others, critically interrogate the ways in which histories of settler colonialism, enslavement, and displacement continue to inform Canada’s present. While these authors challenge many of the above-mentioned Canadian master narratives, they also imagine possible forms of belonging and ways of being in the world for Black people in Canada that defy pervasive anti-Blackness and unfreedom and as such formulate urgent appeals for a different way forward.
Please be aware that this is a reading intensive course, in which students are asked to complete weekly readings and participate actively in class discussions. Students should be willing to engage with different text forms and genres, including prose, poetry and drama as well as theoretical texts. They should be ready to approach the texts with curiosity and open-mindedness, to challenge and rethink their own assumptions, and to engage with each other in a shared process of learning.
Please note: Our first in-person session on campus is on October 26. For the first week of this class, there will be online assignments to be completed by October 26. You will receive more information upon enrollment in this class.
Please get a copy of David Chariandy’s novel Brother as soon as possible (any edition is okay as long as it is in English). Please support your local book shop, if you can. All other texts will be made accessible on moodle.
Content note: Please note that some of our course texts contain descriptions of racialized and sexualized violence, including physical and emotional abuse. Feel free to get in touch with any queries.
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