- At the Crossroads of Literature and Culture ed. by Suchorita Chattopadhyay and Debashree DattaRoy
At the Crossroads of Literature and Culture sets out to redefine the meaning and making of Canadian literature as a product of complex politics of intercultural exchange which corresponds to the nation’s evolution from a settler colony to an independent state. Editors Suchorita Chattopadhyay and Debashree Dattaray carefully compiled a dozen academic essays which explore the intricacies of the idea of the “Canadian,” which is predicated upon the notion of othering – the immigrants, the First nations’ people and so on add to the list of this ‘other.’ Exposing the problematic relationship between the dominant Anglo-European concept of Canadian culture and the various other minority cultures which conform and contribute to the dialectic of the concept of Canada, At the Crossroads presents an accessible critical overview of the background, the evolution and contemporary crisis in the context of Canadian literature and culture. The compilation also balances theoretical and analytical approaches and methodologies by incorporating cultural-literary-theoretical debates alongside textual readings. The multidisciplinary lens unveils the fallacies of exclusive politics of nationalism which is more than ever relevant in the aftermath of the recent Refugee crisis and its corresponding debates in the Canadian public sphere.
In the first essay of this compilation, Himani Banerjee commemorates imminent translation theorist and comparatist Barbara Godard (1941–2010), and presents a critical review of the emergence and transformation of Canadian literature as a site multicultural inquiry. Banerjee weaves Godard’s life within the narrative of the national historical evolution of Canada and captures how Godard, as a scholar and an educator, played a crucial role in acknowledging the presence and incorporating the participation of the ‘other’ languages, literature, and culture within the domain of Canadian Studies. Banerjee’s essay is complimented by Sonia Sikka’s work “Eurocentrism and the Limits of Symbolic Recognition,” which explores the challenges that accompany Canada’s official multiculturalism policy. With a particular [End Page 178] focus on the post 9/11 context of religion-based inclusion/exclusion politics of nationalism in Canada, Sikka’s work outlines the ethical challenges associated with the multiculturalism policy and its implementations in contemporary times. Drawing attention to Quebec’s “Ethics and Religious Culture” program Sikka concludes that a deliberative democracy needs to be founded upon “common reflective conversations” which educate the nation’s citizens about the diverse backgrounds and cultures and ways to create dialogue amongst differences.
Dheeman Bhattacharyya’s essay “Which Canada, Whose Canada?” demonstrates how both Canadian and Indian cultures have exploited the indigenous people to benefit capital accumulation and advancement at the cost of local ecologies and episteme; these shared experiences offer coordinates of comparison and comprehension of Canada and its literature/s for the Indian academy. The position of indigenous literature and culture within the discourse of Canada is explored in Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm’s essay “First Peoples’ Literature in Canada.” This work traces how the indigenous artistic traditions of Canada have remained politically charged sites that perform complex sociological roles. Akiwenzie-Damm demonstrates that indigenous texts recover the history and epistemology of the first peoples’ cultures and knowledge systems while also resisting the ideological domination (of the European colonizers) which is responsible for cultural and linguistic genocide of indigenous people. Focusing on particular authors and artists in their respective works, Debashree DattaRay and Nilanjana Deb demonstrate that contemporary indigenous feminist writers are committed to rebuild a ‘lost’ world of aboriginal philosophy and recreate a space-based narrative ecology that establishes feminism, indigeneity and land at the center of their praxis.
The rest of the essays of this compilation address the complex relationship of the Indian diaspora with the dominant Anglo-European practices of Canadian culture. Sayantan Dasgupta explores the idea of “looking back” – both spatially and temporarily, through the medium of language – with a focus on the work of Sri Lankan-Canadian author Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta. Jennifer Gustar presents a close reading of Anita Rao Badami’s novel “Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?” and...