Contesting Clarke: Towards A De-Racialized African-Canadian Literature

Desi Valentine


This article draws on personal narrative, literary criticism, and multicultural Canadian literature to interrogate George Elliott Clarke’s conceptualizations of a Black Canadian literature and a racialized African-Canadian literary canon in his 2002 essay collection Odysseys Home: Mapping African-Canadian

Literatures. Clarke’s work is juxtaposed with my own experience as a bi-racial, multi-ethnic, Black, Negro, mulatto, half-caste, African-Canadian woman, and with those of non-Black scholars, to expose the shifting contours of ethnicity and the blurred and blurring boundaries of Canadian blackness in multi-, mixed-, and indeterminately racial Canada. Through these critical comparisons, I suggest that a racialized African-Canadian literary canon excludes the multiple Canadian cultures in which our literatures are formed, and supports racial constructs that no longer fit the shapes of our multi-ethnic, diasporic, postcolonial skins. I conclude that upon the fertile ground tended by Clake's Black literary activism, a deracialized African-Canadian literature may grow.


African-Canadian literature, autoethnography, Canadian blackness, ethnic studies, postcolonial studies, race theory

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The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

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