Teelucksingh, Cheryl, Ed.: Claiming Space: Racialization in Canadian Cities.
Claiming Space: Racialization in Canadian Cities.
Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2006.
Despite what its title suggests, this book is not a systematic examination of the competition between racial and ethnic minorities for their own spaces within Canadian cities. Rather it is a collection of ten essays (including the editor's introduction) loosely grouped around the theme of racialization, mainly in four Canadian cities. In her introduction, Cheryl Teelucksingh provides a theoretical overview, while commenting particularly on Toronto. She leads the reader through Robert Miles' original (1989) emphasis on racialization (1), stressing the need to acknowledge the racialization of certain whites, which in her view should not diminish the significance of racialization and the more specific problem of racism experienced by "people of colour." She adds that racialization usually includes a class discourse; moreover in contemporary Canadian society racialization is hidden in the uncritical acceptance of multiculturalism. She then describes what she calls racialized space in Canadian cities, and how various groups claim this space.
The essays by Kelly Amanda Train, "Carving Out a Space of One's Own: The Sephardic Kehila Centre and the Toronto Jewish Community," and Anastasia N. Panagakos, "Mapping Greektown: Identity and the making of 'place' in suburban Calgary," come closest to describing the search of particular ethnic groups for their own space within the city; interestingly, both of these groups are relatively small in these cities, so the quest for focal points can be problematic. Other essays assume the form of personal reflections on identification in the face of discrimination, such as Awad Ibrahim's essay, "There is No Alibi for Being (Black)?" On a rather more general level, ethnic/racial identity and discrimination are addressed in two papers on Vancouver: In his essay, Domenic Beneventi focuses on Chinese-Canadians, while similarly in his essay, "The New Yellow Peril," Glenn Deer focuses on Chinese and Japanese (but not South Asians, a growing population in this area). And multiple discrimination relating to a particular subculture is illustrated by Rinaldo Walcott in "Black Men in Frocks: Sexing race in a gay ghetto (Toronto)." Cathy van Ingen describes the contentious issue of establishing a large casino on a First Nation at the western edge of Edmonton.
Consistent with Miles' original conception of racialization being inclusive of whites, it should be noted that there are chapters on Sephardic Jews (who may range over quite a diverse racial spectrum, and have tended to stress--or be obliged to stress--their uniqueness from the Ashkenazic Jewish majority) and Greeks in Calgary, both of which recount some forms of discrimination directed against Caucasian groups.
On the whole this is an informative and readable book. Although the authors occasionally attempt to refer to theoretical themes discussed in the introduction, this is a remarkably diverse--and somewhat disconnected--collection of essays reflecting the interdisciplinary academic affiliations of the writers: a couple each (including the editor) are in sociology, in communications, in education, and in literary studies, one is in physical education, and one occupies a Canada Research Chair in social justice and cultural studies; yet all ten seem to have wide-ranging interests in both the social sciences and humanities. The inevitable result is a mix of writing styles, ranging from the dense theoretical analysis of Jenny Burman in "Co-Motion in the Diasporic City: Transformations in Toronto's public culture," to more casual style of some of the other writers. Most of these contributors seem to be relatively young academics: at least three (including the editor) are assistant professors, one is a doctoral candidate and another three have recently finished their doctorates.
Clearly this book fills a niche in the literature on ethnicity in Canada, and more specifically on the processes and characteristics of racialization. What it appears to reflect is the repackaging of erstwhile emphasis in Canadian sociology on the institutional completeness of ethnic communities into a new emphasis on racialization. Yet the book is less of a probing, systematic academic analysis than a loose collection of interesting and divergent essays, which most likely was the editor's original intention.
Alan B. Anderson
Professor Emeritus, University of Saskatchewan
(1) Miles defined racialization as a "dialectical process by which meaning is attributed to particular biological features of human beings, as a result of which individuals may be assigned to a general category of persons which reproduces itself biologically." Miles, Robert. Racism. London: Routledge, 1989, p. 76.
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|Author:||Anderson, Alan B.|
|Publication:||Canadian Journal of Urban Research|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2007|
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