Dionne Brand, Austin Clarke, and Tessa McWatt: Blackening Canada
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This project analyzes contemporary black diasporic writing in Canada, arguing that Dionne Brand, Austin Clarke and Tessa McWatt evince a unique form of double-consciousness in their writings. Their work transforms African-American double-consciousness by locating it simultaneously within both the black diaspora and the practice of Canadian multiculturalism. The objective of this project is to offer a critical framework for situating these writers within the legacy of both Black Atlantic and Canadian cultural production. These writers do not aim to resolve their double-consciousness but rather dwell within that contradictory doubleness and hyphenation, forcing nation and diaspora to contend with one another in a discomfiting and unsettling dialogue. These authors employ the absences of the black diaspora to imagine new forms of black cultural production, multicultural citizenship and national identity. Their works produce a grammar of diasporic double-consciousness that locates the absented origins of diaspora within Canada. Brand’s depiction of temporality and Clarke’s tracing of movement explore the continuities between nation and diaspora while re-membering neglected aspects of the history of black Canada, such as the life and death of Albert Johnson. McWatt extends this blackening of nation by depicting coalitions between diasporic, indigenous, raced and sexed subjects. These authors transform hegemonic Canadian narratives of nation by dwelling in the hyphen, while their evocation of memory, absence, trauma, and desire gives blackness new meaning and legitimacy.