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Where the Racial State Meets the Black Atlantic: Reflections on Winfried Siemerling’s The Black Atlantic Reconsidered

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 December 2020

Extract

Winfried Siemerling’s The Black Atlantic Reconsidered: Black Canadian Writing, Cultural History, and the Presence of the Historical Past, to put it mildly, is an impressive piece of scholarship that will stand as one of the definitive works on the histories of Black writing in Canada for the foreseeable future. In his preface, Siemerling states that he embarked upon this undertaking when he learned, to his surprise (one is reminded here, incidentally, of Katherine McKittrick’s injunction that Black Canadian Studies is always constituted as a “surprise”), that there had been little written about Black contemporary writing aside from a few of the comprehensive and encyclopedic works that George Elliot Clarke published in the early to mid-1990s. It is this pioneering work upon which Siemerling builds. He starts with a discussion of “Modernity and Canadian Time-Spaces of the Black Atlantic” in his first chapter and introduction, where he lays out the analytical and conceptual approach of the work. Part 1, “Early Testimony and the Black Canadian Nineteenth Century,” includes chapters titled “Slavery and Early Black Canadian Writing” and “The Black Canadian Nineteenth Century.” Part 2, “The Presence of the Past,” highlights chapters that expand on the themes of “Slavery, the Black Canadian Nineteenth Century, and Caribbean Contexts in Contemporary Black Canadian Writing” and move into a discussion of what he calls “Other Black Canadas” and “Coda: Other Canadas, Other Americas, the Black Atlantic Reconsidered.”

Type
Book Forum: Winfried Siemerling’s The Black Atlantic Reconsidered
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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References

1 Katherine McKittrick, Demonic Grounds: Black Women and Cartographies of Struggle (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006), chap. 4.

2 Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. (London: Verso, 1993), 4.

3 Winfried Siemerling, The Black Atlantic Reconsidered: Black Canadian Writing, Cultural History and the Presence of the Past (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s Press, 2015), 27.

4 Barrington Walker, Colonizing Nation: A Potted History of Colonization, Settlement and Canada’s Racial State, unpublished book manuscript.

5 David Sealy, “Canadianizing Blackness: Resisting the Political,” in Rude: Contemporary Black Canadian Cultural Criticism, ed. Rinaldo Walcot (Toronto: Insomniac Press, 2000), 87–108.

6 Richard Iton, In Search of the Black Fantastic: Politics and Popular Culture in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 9.

7 Siemerling, The Black Atlantic Reconsidered, 12.

8 Robin Winks, The Blacks in Canada: A History (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997) ; James St. G. W. Walker, The Black Loyalists: The Search for a Promised Land in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone, 1783–1870 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992)

9 Barrington Walker, “Critical Histories of Blackness in Canada,” in Unsettling the Great White North: African Canadian History, eds. Michele Johnson and Funké Aledejebi (University of British Columbia Press, forthcoming).

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