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Red tiles, white mosaic : Indigeneity and the institutionalization of multiculturalism in Canada and Canadian literature—towards a literary and political history McCormack, Brendan


“Red Tiles, White Mosaic” offers a literary and political history analyzing the settler-colonial processes by which the state-driven project of multiculturalism became Canada’s distinctive, even “indigenous” national feature by settling itself on Indigenous lands. I examine multiculturalism as a politics of colonial misrecognition whose strategies of managing diversity have excluded or reframed Indigenous political difference as “cultural” difference, obfuscating Indigenous nationhood and the colonial dispossession at the formation of the multicultural nation-state. In Part 1, “Politics and Public Policy,” I historicize the “mosaic” and the development of Canadian multicultural nationalism in literary and political discourse since the nineteenth century, showing how official multiculturalism materialized as an extension of the colonial project of nation-building. Chapter 1 offers a novel and sustained historical critique of multiculturalism’s federal institutionalization since 1971 through the spheres of public policy, law, and political philosophy, mapping the strategies of Indigenous appropriation, exclusion, and containment in the architecture of liberal multiculturalism. Chapter 2 explores the ambivalent material effects of early ethnicity-oriented multicultural policy on publishing in Indigenous newsletters in the 1970s, examining the poetry in publications of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs as a case study. In Part 2, “Political Economy, Pedagogy, and Representation,” I study how the policy and ideology of multiculturalism and the state’s multicultural patronage of arts has transmuted within the Canadian literary field and inflected the reception and construction of Indigenous writing as “multicultural” literature, focusing primarily on the institution of the literary anthology. In Chapter 3, I historicize and theorize the anthology’s significance to multiculturalism’s growing visibility and institutionalization in Canadian literary studies in the 1970s and 1980s. In Chapters 4 and 5, I offer sustained close readings of the discrepant approaches to representing Indigenous literatures in two formative “multicultural” anthologies of the 1990s—Other Solitudes: Canadian Multicultural Fictions (1990) and Making a Difference: Canadian Multicultural Literature (1996)—examining how multicultural recognition obscures the expressive literary politics of Indigenous nationhood. My conclusion brings this literary and political history into the ostensibly “post-multicultural” present, arguing for the ongoing need to decolonize multicultural Canada and Canadian literary multiculturalism.

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