In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

HUMANITIES 401 sity Teachers of English), an enormously interesting miscellany in which one may hope to find some of one's interests addressed here and there and compiled under a rubric that defines participants by no more than the geopolitical boundaries within which they work. What gives thisbook its claim to the word 'Canadian' in its title is perhaps the fact that, like all other aspects of life in this exasperating country, its failure is its success. If it had been a better, more coherent and focused book, it would also have been a worse book, less a recognition of context than an attempt at definition. Our social and constitutional histories demonstrate the dangers of such definition but they do not help us much in compiling books like this. (JULIE BEDDOES) Rinaldo Walcott. Black Like Who?: Writing Black Canada Insomniac Press. xv, 192. $19.99 One is tempted, when a text surveying a 'new' field arrives, to accord it a benign notice, to burnish gently the leaden fact of its existence. In most instances, such charity is correct. But only the most cowardly liberal could deign to praise the slipshod construction and superficial arguments served up in York University Humanities Professor Rinaldo Walcott's primer of African-Canadian culture, Black Like Who?: Writing Black Canada. Despite the small mercy of its brevity~ the book is tmhesitatingly atrocious, and it is so for two reasons: Walcott will not analyse and he cannot write. Walcott opens his textby charging that the terms 'African-Canadianand African-American carry with them a particular connotation which is very much related to distancing oneself from the black urban poor and working class.' He implies that black scholars who use such terms are so many Aunt Jemimas and Uncle Toms. Infuria~ingly- but characteristically- he does not produce a smidgen of evidence to support his sly~ I'm-blacker-thanthou allegation. Yet, he is profoundly inconsistent, for he uses 'AfricanAmerican ' frequently and 'African-Canadian' at least once. More worrisome is Walcott's suggestion that 'We can begin to refuse the seductions of nfirstness" and engage in critique, dialogue and debate, which are always much more sustaining than celebrations of originality.' Here he implies that archival research into African-Canadian culture is wmecessary. But Walcott's Khmer Rouge-like cancellation of the need for historical inquiry cripples his own credibility. Indeed, Black Like Who? is rich in factual errors and interpretative slippages. For instance, Walcott asserts that the African-Americans who met in Fort Erie (Niagara Falls), Ontario, in 1905, to form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 'did not invite black Canadians to be a part of their meetings,' an act which he construes as one of 'exclusion.' Yet, Walcott provides no proof that the Americans were even aware that Canadian blacks lived in Fort Erie. 402 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 Walcott's grasp ofhistory is so slippery that one must view his use of the word 'new' with utmost scepticism. Celebrating Dionne Brand, Walcott insists that she 'began the project of rewriting the [white] racialized space of Canada.' His statement erases, of course, not only Brand's many AfricanCanadian literary ancestors, but even her more immediate literary forebear, namely, Austin Clarke. But Walcott's mistake is fitting: those who do not research their history are condemned to falsify it. (Naturally, when he cites my work, Walcott falls into error. He thinks my interest in AfricanCanadian literary history descends from African-American literary scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Rather, it follows the politic reasoning of FrancoOntarian literary scholar Rene Dionne.) Though Walcott models his work on that of the black British cultural theorist Paul Gilroy, he exhibits an un-Gilroy-like, quite ostentatious, reluctance to provide quotations or other supporting matter for his prononncements. His treatment of African-American novelist Ishmael Reed's Flight to Canada (1976) fails to utilize any quotation from the text. When he argues that Canadian literary critics Frank Davey and Linda Hutcheon 'seem tmable to read in complex and engaging ways the histories of those whom Gilroy has termed the ncounterculture of modernity,"' Walcott does not provide examples of their alleged failures, nor does he undertake to correct their...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 401-402
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.