Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Cultural Grammars of Nation, Diaspora, and Indigeneity in Canada

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Cultural Grammars of Nation, Diaspora, and Indigeneity in Canada

Article excerpt

Literature, arts and criticism Christine Kim, Sophie McCall and Melina Baum Singer (eds), Cultural Grammars of Nation, Diaspora, and Indigeneity in Canada (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2012), 284 pp. Paper. $49.95. ISBN 978-1-55458-336-2.

This essay collection offers a variety of new and often provocative interventions in debates around discourses of nation in Canada, with an emphasis on the significant contribution to these debates by Indigenous and racialised minority communities. Its stated intention is 'to consider the 'cultural grammars' for speaking about race and ethnicity in the current moment' (p. 9). That grammatical metaphor provides a structuring principle based on what might be described as syntactic relations between different elements of discourse. The focus here is on verbs and their temporal modes, demonstrating continuities and changes across the past century of Canadian history. The introduction indicates the main concepts to be explored and sets out in advance the book's three-part structure: 'Present Tense', 'Past Participles' and 'Future Imperfect'.

Though there are overlaps in time across the three sections, the essays in part I address matters of present concern. Sophie McCall's 'Diaspora and Nation in Métis Writing' directly confronts the challenge of reconciling the different agendas of diasporic and Indigenous studies through her reading of the work of Métis poet Gregory Scofield. However, her attempt to construct an 'interfusional critical paradigm' (p. 11) is not widely adopted, and though every section contains essays in both the main areas, they continue to run on parallel lines. On the other hand, Julia Emberley's meticulous analysis of Thomas Pickton's trial in 2007 for his multiple murders of Indigenous women in Vancouver raises key issues which recur: violence towards socially excluded Others, representational politics and the social value of commemoration. Part I ends with 'Grammars of Exchange' by Spanish Canadianist Belén Martín-Lucas, which refreshingly extends the parameters of the volume by asking, 'How is Canadian literature promoted to foreign readers? …

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