Canadianize Blackness? Examining the Realities of Black Canadian Histories and Diaspora Identities

AHA Session 59
Friday, January 6, 2017: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Mile High Ballroom 4A (Colorado Convention Center, Ballroom Level)
Keisha N. Blain, University of Iowa
Keisha N. Blain, University of Iowa

Session Abstract

In his seminal essay, “‘Canadianizing’ Blackness: Resisting the Political,” David Sealy
cautions scholars to resist the temptation to depict Black Canadian history as “either a
repetition of Black American life, Black African life or Black Caribbean life.” Scholars
of Black Canadian history have often considered the ways in which continental and
imperial border-crossings are integral features of Black Canadian identities. Exploring
the diaspora in the Canadian context is important to critically examine the social, cultural
and gendered connections “across national/ist borders” to avoid reproducing a constricted
and confined analysis of Black identities.

Canada, warmly remembered as the Great White North, has been historically represented
as a ‘raceless’ state. This claim often relies on narratives of the Underground Railroad
and a comparison to the explicit anti-Black racism in the United States in order to express
a sense of enlightened exceptionalism to violent North American race politics. However,
historical analyses of anti-Blackness in Canadian society and the responses of diverse
Black Canadian communities shed light on the contradictory idealistic theories of liberal
humanitarian and British benevolence. As many Black diasporic communities converge
within the Canadian landscape, their stories highlight a particular brand of Canadianized
Blackness. This panel will explore the challenges of locating, analyzing, and teaching
Canadian Blackness, both within the context of historical scholarship and its reception in
academic spaces.

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