- Sport in the Black Atlantic: Cricket, Canada and the Caribbean Diaspora by Janelle Joseph
Janelle Joseph has written an interesting study that is part ethnography and part anthropological narrative about the role of cricket in consolidating Afro-Caribbean identity in Canada. The work is relevant to those who study diaspora communities in different countries but perhaps of less interest to those looking at the literature on cricket in non-test-playing nations. In terms of diaspora communities, Joseph's book goes down familiar territory but would have been strengthened by highlighting the pitfalls the cricket community falls into that are, in fact, familiar to those who work in the field.
In terms of the diaspora, she brings out the bonding nature of cricket for the community because it permits the Afro-Caribbean people in Canada to create their own space in the host nation and to carry on the rituals and traditions of the home nation. Further, it provides a generation of Afro-Caribbean men a space to escape from the racism in Canadian society. The book is particularly good at detailing these rituals and traditions, as well as bringing out the nostalgia diaspora groups feel for the homeland that is often tied to fictional narratives that did not exist in real life. However, it could have drawn on a series of issues that would have made the work both more relevant and interesting to the reading public.
First, it was Alexis de Tocqueville who, while discussing the Québécois in Canada, stated that, while this diaspora group thought it was the "new" France, it was actually the old France since they had frozen the traditions of the France from which they had emigrated. Joseph's discussion of the Canadian Afro-Caribbean community projects similar attitudes. Thus, the community freezes its traditions and rituals as well as it prejudices, as Joseph brings out in the chapter on racial attitudes.
This is evident from the disagreements and animosity between the Afro-Caribbean community and the Indo-Caribbean community in Canada that has boiled over into the cricket field. The Afro-Caribbeans see the South Asians as having appropriated cricket in Canada and have squeezed the former group out of playing on both provincial and national teams, as well as excluding them from the decision making and administration of the sport. This feeling of alienation, however, has deeper roots in the historical animosities between the two communities in the Caribbean—despite their common territorial heritage—over economics and political power.
Joseph's book unintentionally brings out what diaspora scholars point to as the weaknesses of such groups: the persistence of divisions from the home country in the host nation; the inability to band together to create something greater than the sum of the parts; and the fact that nostalgia rarely translates into coherent and effective policies toward the homeland. The book points out that the Afro-Caribbean community seeks to help the cricket clubs in their home countries, but such help is modest and reflects the economic status of the diaspora in Canada. Additionally, the book does not bring out how the next generation of Afro-Caribbeans is adapting to both cricket and their position as a visible minority in Canada. Have they taken up the game of their forefathers in large numbers? [End Page 256] Are they bringing about changes in the way cricket is played in Canada by seeking to work with other communities to popularize the game? Neither point is clear from the text and would have been worth exploring.
The other shortcoming of the book is that it does not discuss the state of cricket in Canada and how it is changing due to a transformation of the global game. Over the past two decades, with the rise of India as the cricketing hegemon, there has been an attempt to include more countries in cricketing competitions and at the highest level of the game. Thus, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe—in the 1980s and 1990s—became test-playing nations, while...