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  • The New African Diaspora in Vancouver: Migration, Exclusion, and Belonging by Gillian Creese
  • Parvinder Hira-Friesen
Gillian Creese. The New African Diaspora in Vancouver: Migration, Exclusion, and Belonging. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011. 285 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $27.95 sc.

Gillian Creese delivers a comprehensive and timely account of newcomer experiences within Canadian cities. By highlighting members of the sub-Saharan African community residing in Vancouver, Creese offers the reader a rare glimpse into the lives of a diverse group of immigrants as they negotiate their environment for the purpose of community building and belonging. She claims that this sense of belonging is negotiated in “neighbourhoods, workplaces, schools, shops and street corners” (9). However, the author affirms the presence of marginalization and social exclusion among many of the newcomers. Hence, states Creese, current Canadian “migration reflects diversity; yet, where someone comes from continues to affect settlement experiences in Canada” (5). As a result, individuals with varying national origins adopt new identities as “African” and henceforth actively engage in creating a new, place-based “African community.”

Documenting the experiences of immigrants from countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Creese provides a comprehensive examination of newcomer experiences as they navigate the greater Vancouver area in terms of language, work and belonging. Gillian Creese offers the reader a thorough analysis of interviews with sixty-one women and men from twenty-one African countries. Chapter by chapter the author illustrates how exclusionary encounters faced by these newcomers are not limited to daily living but also labour markets and housing practices.

In Chapter one, the author introduces the reader to the study and provides an overview of the methodology and sample. Accordingly, this study consists of interviews with sixty-one women and men who migrated from sub-Saharan Africa who, at the time of the study, were living in the greater Vancouver area. Employing Bourdieu’s concept of “linguistic capital,” the following chapter delves into an area of contention experienced by many newcomers. This is especially discernible among immigrants who arrived in Canada since the revisions to the Canadian immigration act in 1967 allowed non-European immigrants to enter. By linking accents to competency, Creese demonstrates the prevalence of “accent discrimination” among Canadian employers.

Creese further develops her central argument of how sub-Saharan Africans pursue [End Page 151] community building within the context of Vancouver’s marginalization and social exclusion milieu in the following two chapters. She highlights Canadian labour markets and lack of foreign credential recognition as subjugating tools and products of immigration policies based on ideologies of British and western European racial superiority. Since economic integration is a key component of successful integration of immigrants to Canada, newcomer employability is central to many forms of inclusion. With the onset of non-European immigrants, the labour force has become fragmented and work has become precarious. Therefore, “the position of immigrants of colour, and in particular of immigrant women who are already marginalized in the gendered labour market, has considerably worsened…” (63). Creese asserts that not only are these newcomers stripped of linguistic capital but also must contend with loss of human capital as their education and experience from their home countries is not recognized by Canadian employers. She further indicates that “deskilling” of workers is inevitable as foreign educational credentials are not acknowledged by Canadian companies and immigrants are forced to use their hands rather than their minds to make a living.

In Chapter five, Creese examines how the immigrants of this study negotiate gender roles within the context of families and settlement. She states that family and employment were central to settlement experiences among the participants. As many families faced challenges of raising children in Vancouver, they felt particularly vulnerable without their extended family members to help with child rearing.

The last two chapters are dedicated to identity formation and belonging practices. Creese examines the concept of “becoming black” as practised by both African adults and children. Even though adults and children may not agree on the influences of youth culture, argues Creese, they are both equally susceptible to “a social imaginary where they are already constructed, imagined and positioned through hegemonic discourses of Blackness and practices of White...


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