Citizenship, race, and nationalism in contemporary English-Canadian newspaper representations of Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians

Wendy Naava Smolash
Department of English, Simon Fraser University
April, 2011
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Naava Smolash
BA (hons) (Trent), MA (Guelph), PhD (SFU)

Research areas include contemporary Canadian literature, poetry and poetics, nationalism, race theory, and print news media. My work has appeared in Studies in Canadian Literature, West Coast Line, Nanaimo Between Past and Future: Critical Perspectives on Growth, Planning and the New Nanaimo Centre, and the University of Toronto Quarterly special issue "Discourses of Security, 'Peacekeeping' Narratives and the Cultural Imagination in Canada." I produce collaborative creative work with the Press Release poetry collective in Vancouver.
 

Abstract

This dissertation critiques national English-Canadian newspaper representations of Muslims, Arabs and South Asians in the context of national narratives about Canada. I explore these tensions in the context of Canadian Literary Studies as a cultural field, exploring the gap produced in the encounter between Canadian literary narratives of nation and actual immigration regimes that produce expanding categories of precarious citizenship status within Canada. Because I approach newspaper texts as narrative, this dissertation weaves together Race Theory, Frames Theory, and the literary practice of reading against the grain to critique newspaper representations in The Globe and Mail, The National Post, and, where relevant, two Vancouver newspapers that contain significant discussion of the national: The Vancouver Sun and The Province. It examines discourses of race and nation in four case studies: Project Thread, the Toronto 18, Security Certificates, and the sanctuary story of Laibar Singh, and juxtaposes these national narratives with critiques of legal citizenship structures emerging within the contemporary migrant justice movement. Bringing Race Theory to bear on news framing within these national media texts, I explore the ways in which the racialization of human bodies within naturalized social hierarchies informs the dominant frame in each case study, and the ways in which contestations of hegemony emerge in the struggle to establish frames. This struggle over framing, which shapes and is shaped by the material realities of the country, reveals tensions over the very definition of nationally resonant concepts such as Multiculturalism, Citizenship, Immigration, or the meaning of Canada.
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We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.

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