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Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 1 Week 6 The Myth of the Multicultural City GEOG | Imagining Toronto Department of Geography Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies York University Winter Term
Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 2 She likes the mix on the streets here, the mixed skins. Chinatown has taken over mostly, though there are still some Jewish delicatessens, and, further up and off to the side, the Portuguese and West Indian shops of the Kensington Market. Rome in the second century, Constantinople in the tenth, Vienna in the nineteenth. A crossroads. Those from other countries look as if they're trying hard to forget something, those from here as if they're trying hard to remember. Or maybe it's the other way around." Margaret Atwood, The Robber Bride. McClelland & Stewart: 39.
But as at any crossroads there are permutations of existence. People turn into other people imperceptibly, unconsciously. …. Lives in this city are doubled, tripled, conjugated – women and men all trying to handle their own chain of events, trying to keep the story straight in their own heads. At times they catch themselves in sensational lies, embellishing or avoiding a nasty secret here and there, juggling the lines of causality, and before you know it, its impossible to tell one thread from another. Brand, Dionne, What We All Long For. Toronto: Knopf: 5 Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 3
They come from everywhere, from Argentina, Nigeria, Russia, Pakistan, but rarely because they have an explicit vision of the place; they arent drawn by mythic images of riches and glamour like the immigrants arriving at the airports and harbours of New York. They are exiles, for the most part, who have thrown darts at a map of the world. Arriving, astonished by the cold, bewildered by hockey and our Nordic reserve, they nonetheless build their cities within our city: Chinatown, Little India, Portugal Town. Our city becomes a new city surprised by itself, doubletaking at the profusion of culture: Brazilian dance clubs, Indian cricket matches, Polish delis, Chinese newspapers, Ecuadorian snack stands, somber Italian Easter parades. Patricia Pearson, Playing House. Toronto: Random House Canada: Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 4
[i]n this city there are Bulgarian mechanics, there are Eritrean accountants, Colombian cafe owners, Latvian book publishers, Welsh roofers, Afghani dancers, Iranian mathematicians, Tamil cooks in Thai restaurants, Calabrese boys with Jamaican accents, Fushen deejays, Filipina-Saudi beauticians; Russian doctors changing tires, there are Romanian bill collectors, Cape Croker fishmongers, Japanese grocery clerks, French gas meter readers, German bakers, Haitian and Bengali taxi drivers with Irish dispatchers. Dionne Brand, What We All Long For Toronto, Knopf: 5. Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 5
The Myth of the Multicultural City Pico Iyer calls Toronto the city as anthology. Official Toronto slogans: The World Within a City, Expect the World, Diversity our Strength. Multicultural festivals in Toronto: e.g., Caribana, Pride, Masala! Mehndi! Masti! Widespread (but inaccurate) belief that the United Nations has formally declared Toronto to be the most multicultural city in the world. Is the myth of the multicultural city Torontos creation myth? How do we communicate across culture in Toronto? In a city with so many competing cultural narratives, how do we navigate among them Is a coherent narrative of the multicultural city even possible? Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 6
State Multiculturalism in Canada Canadian Multiculturalism Act (1985). [T]he Government of Canada recognizes the diversity of Canadians as regards race, national or ethnic origin, colour and religion as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society and is committed to a policy of multiculturalism designed to preserve and enhance the multicultural heritage of Canadians while working to achieve the equality of all Canadians in the economic, social, cultural and political life of Canada. It is the policy of the Government of Canada to (a) recognize and promote the understanding that multiculturalism reflects the cultural and racial diversity of Canadian society and acknowledges the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage; (b) recognize and promote the understanding that multiculturalism is a fundamental characteristic of the Canadian heritage and identity and that it provides an invaluable resource in the shaping of Canadas future; […] Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 7
Boutique Multiculturalism Stanley Fish warns us to beware of boutique multiculturalism. (see Boutique Multiculturalism, or Why Liberals are Incapable of Thinking about Hate Speech. Critical Inquiry, 23(2): ) Fish describes boutique multiculturalism as the multiculturalism of ethnic restaurants, weekend festivals, and high profile flirtations with the other. Fish argues that this sort of multiculturalism is characterized by a superficial and cosmetic commitment to diversity. Ultimately, Fish argues that liberal as well as radical approaches to multiculturalism are incoherent and fatally flawed. How do we confront and deal with real problems like racism, conflicting religious beliefs and the local consequences of global conflicts? Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 8
The End of Multiculturalism? On 5 February 2011 British Prime Minister David Cameron declared that state multiculturalism has failed in Britain and Europe: Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream. Cameron reportedly spoke out against passive tolerance, arguing that A passively tolerant society... stands neutral between different values […] A genuinely liberal country does much more. It believes in certain values and actively promotes them. Falloon, Matt, 5 February "Multiculturalism has failed in Britain, PM Cameron says." Globe & Mail. Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 9
Multiculturalism? Is multiculturalism you say? What is so multiculturalistic about Toronto? Toronto is a collection of ghettos. Ethnic ghettos. Cultural ghettos. In other words, racial ghettos, and – Oh Christ, I never looked at it this way! Thats right! You got Rosedale: Anglo-Saxon people. Jane-Finch: black people and visible minorities. High Park: the Poles. Sin- Clair, all up there by Dufferin and Eglinton: the Eye-Talians... Dont leave-out the place up north, where the cheapest house cost a million. The rich Eye-talians... Austin Clarke, More (Toronto: Thomas Allen, 2008): 256. Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 10
Multiculturalism is […] a voice that lures us slowly to neutrality and tolerance […] Its a refrain that reels off many warnings and resembles the Pied Piper whose sounds push us like mice into the invisible Lake Ontario and we drown dragged down by concrete neologisms Multiaccessmultiaddictmultiadvocatemultiarbitratormultiathletemultiballotm ultibarriomultibathroommultibombmulticavitymultiCanadianmultichallen gedmultichannelmulticitizenmulticleaningmulticinicmulticoffeemulticond ominiummulticulturalmulticuntmultidisciplinarymultidrugmultieducationm ulti multiemissionmultiethncmultiexclusionmultiexhibitionmultiexitmul tiexterminatormultifacemultifairmultifaithmultifinemultifuckmultinsurancen umbermultgallerymultigarbagemultigendermultigentrificationmultiglobal multiguidelinemultihomelessmultijailmultilandlordmultinclusionmulintegra tionmultilingualmultilovermultinativemultimortgagemultineighbourhoodm ultipersonalitymultiplanningmultipoetrymultipridemultiproductmultiracem ultischlepmultisexmultisheltermultisoldierultitonguemultitolerantmultivicti multivoic Corrado Paina, Embrace the Walls from Souls in Plain Clothes. Toronto: Mansfield Press, Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 11
Some say that the only thing race is good for is to divide the population into work categories. Those who wash the dishes will be Sri Lankan, those who drive the cabs will be African, those who run the banks will be European, those who watch the kids will be Filipino, those who mind the store will be Korean and those upon whose bodies the good life is modelled will be, more and more, a hybridization of all of the above – on TV, on billboards, in magazines. But it would be a mistake to believe that these beautifully mixed people represent a race-free future – that people will stop their fixation on difference and settle down to enjoying similarities. Its just a smokescreen. Part of a dazzling performance. Darren ODonnell, Your Secrets Sleep With Me (Toronto: Coach House): 108. Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 12
When you live here for three months, then you will really understand what racism is. I call the shots the way I see it. That is not racism. Over here racism is a sort of polite thing, not like in Trinidad. Nobody calling you nigger or coolie or names like that, but its always inside them. Deep down. You see it in the bus when they refuse to sit by you. In the park when they suddenly change direction if they see somebody black. In the bank, when the tellers smile suddenly disappear when she look up and see a brown face before her. Over the telephone, when they recognise the foreign accent and tell you that the position is no longer available or the apartment was just rented. That is how racism operate over here. Maharaj Rabindranath, Homer in Flight (Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions): Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 13
Cultural Satire as Militant Irony In Lawrence Hills Any Known Blood (Harper Collins, 1997), the mixed-race son of a black father and a white mother allows himself to be mistaken variously as French, Moroccan, Peruvian, American, Jamaican, as well as part Sikh, Jewish, Cree and Zulu by Torontonians eager to criticize or capitalize upon the citys ethnic diversity. Ultimately, when applying for a government job as a speechwriter, he passes himself off as Algerian in order to test my theory that nobody would challenge my claim to any racial identity. Nobody does, until he is exposed as the son of a prominent black doctor and human rights activist and fired, not for misrepresenting his background but for the more recognisable disciplinary offence of doctoring a speech delivered by a hapless Minister duped into objecting to his own governments plan to eliminate human rights legislation in Ontario. Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 14
Race and Anti-R.A.C.E. In Mobashar Qureshis novel, R.A.C.E., the Toronto police force sets up a special drug task force to confront what it calls the Radical Association of Criminal Ethnicities, an elusive interracial gang seeking to manufacture and distribute a street drug so powerful it produces both instant anaesthesia and immediate addiction. The task force, labelled Operation Anti-R.A.C.E., grounds its investigation in experience with ethnic gang affiliations in Toronto, explaining at a briefing that we are used to dealing with the Colombian Cartels, the Chinese Triads, the Italian Mafia, or the Jamaican Posse – with individuals who associate themselves with a group, most of the time race being the main factor. You were only allowed to join if you were of a certain class, certain colour, certain religion, or from a certain country. The frightening twist in the current investigation, the task force leader warns, is that this group does not discriminate. Indeed, the problem of interracial cooperation among criminals concerns the task force as much as the drug investigation does. Ultimately, the police worry that this sort of gangland multiculturalism will spread beyond Toronto: It will move to other major cities in Canada. Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, all over. It could even expand to the United States. Our mandate is to shut down this group. The pressure is on us. If this group expands theres no telling where itll go. [Mobashar Qureshi, R.A.C.E. (Toronto: Mercury Press, 2006): ] Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 15
Race Talk Lets have some race talk Some pakiniggerchink talk Lets have some race talk Some white talk some joke talk Lets have some lynchdeportbash talk. Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta, Lets Have Some Race Talk, in Domestic Bliss (Toronto: Is Five Press): 48. Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 16
Here is a ghettogotten for goyim O with care denudedof nigger and kike No coonsmell ranklesreeks only cellarrot Attar of carexhaustcatcorpse and cookinggrease Earle Birney, Anglosaxon Street in The Poems of Earle Birney. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 17
No New Land Nanji began an instinctive step towards his compatriot, but then realized he would draw attention and stopped. At that moment a shiver ran down his spine. The three louts had come up behind Esmail and began their abuse. Paki! one of them shouted joyfully. Esmail turned toward them, looking frightened. What do you have there, Paki? Hey, hey? Paki-paki-paki.... (97) The whole brutal incident was shocking, the more so for being wanton and racial, directed at someone who could have been himself. In that very real sense, he too had been attacked. What ached now, and horribly, was the recollection of his own behaviour during the attack. He had not moved an inch, not uttered a syllable, to defend the man. [T]he outrage expressed officially, although perhaps too piously, by police, newspapers, and ordinary citizens decided once and for all that the line had been overstepped, that this was beyond tolerable limits. Toronto the Good would not have it. It brought home, to everybody, the fact that the immigrants were here to stay, they could not, would not, simply go away. (107) Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 18
When does a man begin to rot? Nurdin asks himself, evaluating his moral decline since arriving in Toronto. Of all his transgressions – drinking beer, watching erotic films, unaccompanied visits with an unmarried female acquaintance – the one that disturbs Nurdin most greatly is having eaten a sausage pressed upon him by a co-worker, a lapsed vegetarian from Guyana who comments, Forget pork, man. I was not supposed to eat meat. Even egg. Im supposed to think you are dirty. You think they are dirty. Who is right? Superstitions, all. (127) For Nurdin, however, eating the sausage not only violates his Muslim faith and the edict against consuming pork: it also reflects the subsuming of his sense of identity within what he sees as the yawning morass of Canadian culture: The pig, they said, was the most beastly of beasts. It ate garbage and faeces, even its babies, it copulated freely, was incestuous. Wallowed in muck. Eat pig and become a beast. Slowly the bestial traits – cruelty and promiscuity, in one word, godlessness – overcame you. And you became, morally, like them. The Canadians. (127) Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 19
As my mother is serving out the rice, a Tamil man whose interests in Toronto rival Suthans is walking up to the locked doors of the Tamil community center with bolt cutters.... As my father asks for another helping of coconut sambol, the man is playing a flashlight across the walls of the main room, its decorations, its map of Sri Lanka, its Hindu gods. He has donned leather gloves, his expression unreadable. He could be doing this in another country entirely. He pours gasoline all over the rugs, and all over the wooden frame of the mānavarai, the wedding altar Suthan has built for Janani, and which tomorrow would have been adorned with flowers. […] Miles away, in a place empty of people, the stranger hands two flaming bottles to the men behind him. They roll their windows down, and the man in the drivers seat counts to three. Like twinned shooting stars, the bottles spiral through the air. Two, and then another two, the first pair shattering the halls front windows.... a spark paints a stripe down a trail of gasoline, to another, to another, until a web of light tightens like a fist around the structure in which Janani was to be Married. We are in a different country, a different time. But the building explodes. It explodes. V.V. Ganeshananthan, Love Marriage (New York: Random House, 2008): Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 20
The Trouble with Tolerance In Imagining Toronto, I argue that Toronto is a new kind of city, a city where identity emerges not from shared tradition or even a common cultural language but rather is forged out of a commitment to the virtues of diversity, tolerance and cultural understanding. But how is it possible to reconcile notions of tolerance with persistent racism and xenophobia? In philosophy, tolerance (or toleration) is a negative virtue: A person (or entity) who tolerates something or someone may disapprove of certain beliefs or actions but will put up with them conditionally. In this sense, tolerance is akin to forbearance, a willingness to endure something or someone. A putting up with. Tolerance involves an intrinsic power dynamic: the power to attack or destroy something but to refrain from doing so. Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 21
Why be Tolerant? Regard for the autonomy of others A desire for peace (agreeing to disagree?) Empathy, generosity A wish for (or a fear of) reciprocity The possibility that ones judgement might be wrong or incomplete Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 22
Criticisms of Tolerance Although tolerance has a long and fascinating philosophical history, contemporary critics (e.g., Herbert Marcuse, Iris Marion Young) associate it with twentieth century Western liberalism and claim it is ideologically convenient. In Tolerance as an Ideological Category (Critical Inquiry, 34: ), cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek argues that Liberalist multiculturalism preaches tolerance between cultures while making it clear that true tolerance is fully possible only in individualist Western culture. In Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada (1994) Neil Bissoondath writes that Canada has long prided itself on being a tolerant society, but tolerance is clearly insufficient in the building of a cohesive society. A far greater goal to strive for would be an accepting society. Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 23
Where Bissoondath rejects tolerance for being too narrow, in Boutique Multiculturalism Stanley Fish attacks tolerance for being too broad: the trouble with stipulating tolerance as your first principle is that you cannot possibly be faithful to it because sooner or later the culture whose core values you are tolerating will reveal itself to be intolerant at that same core; that is, the distinctiveness that marks it as unique and self-defining will resist the appeal of moderation or incorporation into a larger whole. Confronted with a demand that it surrender its viewpoint or enlarge it to include the practices of its natural enemiesother religions, other races, other genders, other classesa beleaguered culture will fight back with everything from discriminatory legislation to violence. Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 24
Bissoondath and Fish exemplify the classic dilemma of tolerance: that mere tolerance begrudges difference while unconditional tolerance courts absurdity when it encounters in tolerance. Other critics, among them feminist, post-colonial and Marxist scholars, challenge conceptions of tolerance on the grounds that they privilege those who do the tolerating (white, Male, Western Selves) over those who are only ever provisionally tolerated (minority, women, immigrant Others). Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 25
Reclaiming Tolerance Categories of privilege (race, class, gender) are neither absolute nor stable. Existential threats (or perceived threats) flow in multiple directions; e.g., the alleged clash of cultures between Islam and the West. Tolerance acknowledges that conflicts exist. Oppressor-victim narratives are subject to criticism (see Gayatri Spivaks essay, Can the subaltern speak.) Rather than setting an impossibly high standard for cultural acceptance, tolerance establishes the minimum conditions for civility. The limits of tolerance (e.g., hate speech) Rather than being seen as a negative virtue, tolerance is a remarkably elastic concept, one that is also already understood and practiced in positive ways. Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 26
Inspired Adhoccery? Fish argues that multiculturalism will not be one thing, but many things. We may not be able to reconcile the claims of difference and community in a satisfactory formula, but we may be able to figure out a way for these differences to occupy the civic and political space of this community without coming to blows. Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 27
Tolerance in Toronto Tolerance acknowledges the tensions that exist among cultural communities. This is particularly urgent in a city like Toronto where contemporary immigration has made unlikely neighbours of Croations, Serbs, Tamils, Sinhalese, Tutsis, Hutus, Sikhs, Hindus, Turks, Armenians, Greeks, Macedonians, Muslims, Jews and manifold other diasporas. Tolerance is committed precisely to the kinds of negotiations across culture that recue multiculturalism from empty utopianism. Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 28
Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 29 The city is the place of our meeting with the other. … The city is the privileged site where the other is and where we ourselves are other, as the place where we play the other. (Roland Barthes, Semiology and the Urban. In The City and the Sign: An Introduction to Urban Semiotics, ed. Marc Gottdeiner and Alexandros Lagopolous, New York: Columbia University Press.)
The place of our meeting with the Other. Cultural theorist Roland Barthes describes the city as the place of our meeting with the other. He portrays the city as the privileged place where the other is and where we ourselves are other, as the place where we play the other. (1986. Semiology and the Urban. In Gottdiener, Mark and Alexandros Lagopoulos, The Citry and the Sign: An Introduction to Urban Semiotics. New York: Colombia University Press. 96) Barthes analysis gives rise to two obligations as we encounter others in the multicultural city. The first is that our meetings with the other must begin with a principled openness to cultural difference. The second is that we learn to stop thinking of the other as foreign, alien, exotic or otherwise detached from ourselves. Both obligations are grounded in an awareness of the multicultural city as a moral space, a terrain whose signposts are intersubjective as much as they are spatial. Indeed, geographer Richard Howitt relies on philosopher Emmanuel Levinas analysis of alterity and difference to argue that contemporary cities are distinguished by the need to both recognise and traverse the distance between the self and the other, the need to recognize that this is a separation that cannot be ignored, and that it is a separation that must be transcended. (Richard Howitt, Scale and the other: Levinas and geography. Geoforum, vol. 33: 309.) Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 30
Four Conversations Across Culture 1.Writers who respond actively to intolerance (Austin Clarke, Krisantha Bhaggiyadatta) 2.Restorative conversations, oriented toward reclaiming identity from the obliterating effects of racial prejudice, economic exclusion, cultural erasure and ethnic spectacle (e.g., Torontos Aboriginal writers) 3.Writers inscribing their cultural narratives upon the citys landscape for the first time (e.g., Diaspora Dialogues; Farzana Doctors novel Stealing Nasreen ). 4.Communicating across difference (Dionne Brands novel What We All Long For : Tuyens lubaio) Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 31
Week 6 9 February 2011 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 32
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