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Challenging Racism in the Arts

Challenging Racism in the Arts: Case Studies of Controversy and Conflict

Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Challenging Racism in the Arts
    Book Description:

    Framed by their contention that 'cultural production is one way in which society gives voice to racism,' the authors examine how six controversial Canadian cultural events have given rise to a new 'radical' or 'critical' multiculturalism.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7280-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-17)

    This is a book about the quest for identity, representation, and affirmation in a multiracial, multicultural society, and the struggle against the power of a dominant culture that is still significantly influenced by the legacy of its Eurocentric heritage. One of the key assumptions of this book is that culture is a key site in the political struggle to transform power relations. We set out to document how ideas and images about racial and ethnic minorities are seamlessly woven into various forms of cultural production including literature, theatre, music, the visual arts, and the media. We seek to uncover the...

  5. 1 Theoretical Perspectives
    (pp. 18-35)

    The theoretical orientation of this book is influenced by trends and developments in the field of cultural studies. This relatively new discipline, an interdisciplinary blend of the social sciences, is closely associated with the philosophical discourse of postmodernism. This book deals with the dynamics of cultural production in a society that can easily be characterized as postmodern.

    Canada meets many of the criteria of a postmodern society because it is characterized by rapid population changes and ethno-racial diversity. These features were recognized many years ago by Lyotard (1986) as a condition of heterogeneity and localism rather than homogeneity and universality....

  6. 2 Into the Heart of Africa
    (pp. 36-62)

    The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is a highly respected cultural institution of international stature. In November 1989 it mounted an exhibition, calledInto the Heart of Africa, consisting of, about 375 artifacts from Central and West Africa that had been stored by the ROM for over one hundred years. Some of these artifacts had been acquired by Canadian soldiers who participated in Britainʹs colonial campaigns in the late nineteenth century. Others had been collected by Canadian missionaries between 1875 and 1925, as they worked to bring ʹChristianity, civilization, and commerceʹ to African tribal societies. (So explained the caption of the...

  7. 3 The Barnes Collection
    (pp. 63-85)

    In September 1994 a collection of eighty-three Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings arrived in Toronto. They were part of a vast and important art collection acquired by Dr Albert Barnes over the course of his lifetime, from the early 1900s until his death in 1951. Barnes collected Old Masters, including paintings by Tintoretto, El Greco, Titian, and Rubens; and ʹNew Masters,ʹ including works by Daumier, Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, Monet, Manet, Rousseau, Van Gogh, Degas, Utrillo, Modigliani, Soutine, and Seurat; as well as African sculptures, Greco-Roman carvings, Chinese paintings, Islamic art, Native American rugs, and other works of art.

    Barnesʹs private collection...

  8. 4 The Writing Thru Race Conference
    (pp. 86-110)

    In the summer of 1994 the Writers Union of Canada (TWUC) sponsored the Writing Thru Race Conference. It took place in Vancouver and brought together 180 First Nations writers and writers of colour for a three-day conference. Participation in the conferenceʹs daytime events was by invitation and was restricted to writers of colour and First Nations writers. (The evening sessions, however, were open public meetings.) This small group of writers managed to capture national attention for six months. The conference was important enough that it was debated in the House of Commons. Dozens of articles and editorials were written about...

  9. 5 The Black/Dance Music Station
    (pp. 111-140)

    African-Canadian music professionals have complained since the 1960s that mainstream radio is neglecting Black/dance music, particularly the music of local musicians. In October 1984, Robert Wood submitted a proposal for a Black/dance music radio station that would serve the needs of the African-Canadian community in Metropolitan Toronto. Wood was responding to a call from the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for applications for a licence to establish a new FM station, 97.3 – the last frequency available in Toronto. Eighteen months later the CRTC, in Decision 86-232 released on 20 March 1986, announced that it had awarded that frequency...

  10. 6 Miss Saigon
    (pp. 141-158)

    On 26 May 1993,Miss Saigon, a modern-day version of Pucciniʹs operaMadama Butterfly, opened in Toronto at the Princess of Wales Theatre. The state-of-the-art theatre was built especially to house the musical at a cost of over $30 million. Over 300,000 Asian Canadians live in Toronto. About one hundred protesters, mainly Asian-Canadian artists and activists, turned out on opening night to protest the musical.

    The musicalʹs story takes place in the closing days of the Vietnam War. Thus, it is situated in the context of a civil war that had long divided the country into two opposing forces: North...

  11. 7 Show Boat
    (pp. 159-213)

    The Ford Centre for the Performing Arts precipitated a wave of protest, polarization, and conflict when it decided to open in the fall of 1993 with the musicalShow Boat. The new, publicly funded centre would be opening its doors by producing a sixty-six-year-old American play with a long history of racist associations. This, even though North York, where the theatre is located, is one of the most racially diverse municipalities in Canada and has a large population of African Canadians.¹

    This case study explores the racial politics in the cultural production ofShow Boatat two levels. On one...

  12. 8 Revisiting Central Themes and Tensions
    (pp. 214-246)

    We have used a case study approach to examine the construction of identities and differences within systems of cultural production as processes of inclusion and exclusion, marginalization and erasure, power and resistance. In particular, we have used case studies to explore the relationship between escalating racial tensions in Canada and the struggle over cultural representation in both popular and high culture. The overarching theme of this book is that there is a crisis in representation in which the traditional modes of cultural production are no longer acceptable to many marginalized groups in Canadian society (which is not to suggest they...

  13. 9 Concluding Reflections
    (pp. 247-270)

    What conclusions can be drawn from these case studies? How do the cultural politics of difference as analysed in each of the case studies influence our understanding of the values and practices of a society based on the principles of liberalism and multiculturalism? What new models or cultural paradigms do we require in order to create a society in which the hermetic seal dividing Canadians into ʹthemʹ and ʹusʹ can be broken?

    The case studies, most notably the one discussing the Writing Thru Race Conference, suggest that Canada is in a state of cultural crisis. This cultural crisis is a...

  14. Glossary
    (pp. 271-278)
  15. References
    (pp. 279-280)
  16. Index
    (pp. 281-293)