Media @ McGill

Jenny Burman edits a special issue of TOPIA


topiaMedia@McGill's Dr. Jenny Burman, professor in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies, is the guest editor of an upcoming special issue of Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies entitled "Diasporic Pasts and Futures: Transnational Cultural Studies in Canada".

Professor Burman teaches and writes in the area of transnational cultural studies. She proposed this special issue in order to highlight an emergent body of Canadian scholarship that brings together the theoretical innovations of humanities-based postcolonial studies and politicized social scientific analyses of globalization and diasporization.

The following excerpt from the introduction describes the content of the issue: "The essays and round-table discussion attempt to raise provocative questions about diasporic conditions, transnational connections and the multiple identifications that texture everyday life in Canada.

"Lily Cho's essay "The Turn to Diaspora" proposes that we approach diaspora not as an object but as a condition of subjectivity, "marked by the contingencies of long histories of displacements and genealogies of dispossession". Cho addresses the inattention in contemporary scholarship to the formative historical experience of Asian indentureship. Her essay is also interested in overlapping diaspora connections, in particular those existing between African and Asian diasporas.

"In "Black Canadian Literature as Diaspora Transgression", Andrea Davis suggests that we engage black Canadian literature through constitutive diasporic experiences, which engender for black women writers a tradition of "transgressive boundary crossing and cultural unmanageability". Davis attends to historical experiences and literary explorations of black migration in Canada, as well as scholarly debates about black writing and national identity in the Americas. The second half of her essay closely analyzes Esi Edugyan's novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, which tells the story of a West African family settling in a small Alberta town.

"Andil Gosine's essay also treats questions of national and diasporic identifications in his discussion of the burdens placed on racialized youth, who in mass media and other popular discourses are seen as "both threatening to and responsible for the reproduction of the nations they inhabit." In "Youth Make Nations: Three Toronto Stories", Gosine uses the cases of criminalized black male youth in mass media, the "culture-staging work" of York University's Guyanese Social Club and Samuel Chow's short video "Banana Boy" to draw out how gendered, racialized and sexualized youth are mobilized for divergent ends in the diasporic city of Toronto.

"In their essay "Animating Exclusions", Ayesha Hameed and Tamara Vukov weave together a close reading of the aesthetic and political strategies employed by Ali Kazimi in his 2004 documentary Continuous Journey and an examination of exclusionary Canadian immigration policies' reliance on the overt and implicit racialization of migrant groups. Kazimi's film uses an innovative method of animating archival photographs to tell the story of the Komagata Maru, the ship that arrived in Vancouver in 1914 with 376 predominantly Sikh passengers from India via Japan. The passengers were detained on the ship for two months on the grounds that the Continuous Journey regulation of 1908 prevented the Canadian immigration department from admitting migrants who had not traveled directly from their points of origin to Canada. Hameed and Vukov use a Deleuzian concept of virtuality to examine "the virtual exclusions of immigration policy (that) allow contemporary policy discourses to maintain a celebratory mythos of inclusivity that denies racializing and exclusionary effects and practices."

"Sidney Eve Matrix's essay considers historical and current issues of citizenship and exclusion from the perspective of the "citizenship quagmire" in which British "war brides", who had joined Canadian husbands after the Second World War, found themselves in 2006. Matrix's "Mediated Citizenship and Contested Belongings" traces the story of former war brides who have discovered in the last few years that despite continual assurances that they had been automatically made Canadian citizens upon marrying their husbands, Matrix discusses the gendered character of citizenship claims, the media discourses around war brides in the 1940s and then in the 1990s-2000s and the success of these women's migrant networks in galvanizing a movement to gain full citizenship rights.

"In productive contrast to Lily Cho's opening conceptualization of diaspora, Pablo Bose's essay "Dreaming of Diasporas" explores diaspora as a financial and symbolic resource that is mobilized by Indian governments and Kolkata condominium developers. The Non-Resident Indian (NRI) or Person of Indian Origin (PIO) is a valuable source of migrant remittances and investment as well as a prototypical "model minority" success story who forms the basis for the construction of what Bose calls the "mythic global Indian". Bose acknowledges the importance of class and diasporic cultural capital in his description of how luxury condo developers appeal to the Bengali diaspora and local elites by deploying a global aesthetic that ignores the vexing context of Kolkata.

"We conclude the special issue section of Topia 17 with a round-table discussion between Topia representatives Jenny Burman and Claire Roberge, and Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) professors Micheline Labelle and Rachad Antonius. In this French-language dialogue about Québec scholarship on transnationalism, Labelle and Antonius discuss their own research and that of their colleagues at the Centre de recherche sur l'immigration, l'ethnicité et la citoyenneté (CRIEC), as well as more general issues affecting the study of cultural pluralism in the Quebec context."