Home-Work: Postcolonialism, Pedagogy and Canadian Literature

Article excerpt

Cynthia Sugars (ed.), Home-Work: Postcolonialism, Pedagogy and Canadian Literature (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2004), ix + 533pp. Paper. $35.00. ISBN 0-7766-0577-1.

This collection considers the influence of postcolonial theory on the teaching of Canadian literature, and is presented by Cynthia Sugars as 'a reappraisal of an institutionalised Canadian literary postcolonialism' (p. 10). Placing theoretical enquiries into the concepts of postcolonialism and pedagogy alongside textual readings, historical and material analyses and examples of teaching practices, the volume is divided into six sections: 'National Pedagogy and Globalization'; 'Postcolonial Pedagogies'; 'Decolonizing the Classroom'; 'Teaching/Reading Native Writing'; 'Pedagogies in Practice' and 'Historical Imperatives'. Sugars's introduction provides a useful survey of existing work on the intersection between postcolonialism and pedagogy, along with provoking thoughts on how postcolonialism's insights into the politics of cultural representation might be used in the service of progressive pedagogical practice. Many of the authors, including Roy Miki, Arun Mukherjee, Gary Boire and Heike Härting, continue postcolonialism's ongoing project of self-criticism, with Boire reminding us that, once institutionalised, postcolonial theory can work to entrench rather than disrupt orders of privilege. Diana Brydon calls attention to the benefits of destabilising students' forms of 'sanctioned ignorance' (p. 68) and democratising classrooms by changing power structures, although I wondered how this familiar rhetoric might intersect with market realities in which student evaluations are increasingly influential in tenure decisions. Terry Goldie's contribution also addresses the exigencies of working within the academy, recording a salutary exchange with an administrator for whom 'postcolonialism' is a desirably bland 'post-ideological' term with which to simultaneously seduce students onto courses and placate committees who are leery of loaded terms like 'visible minority'. …