Transnational Cultural Capital: Managing Diversity in Caribbean-Canadian Women’s Performance of Multiculturalism

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This dissertation investigates the politics of officially-sanctioned Canadian multiculturalism via an exploration of the experiences of Caribbean-Canadian women. Using a combination of performance theory, postcolonial and feminist theories, and the notion of hospitality as theorized by Jacques Derrida, the dissertation argues that, while ostensibly benevolent, state-sanctioned multiculturalism places onerous demands on racialized groups to perform their otherness. This, I argue, is the “price of entry” for multiculturalism’s conditional hospitality. I suggest that this price serves to radically limit the agency of the performer by simultaneously celebrating otherness (through exoticizing displays that render it as a spectacle to be alternately desired and feared) and containing it, limiting the capacity of those whose difference is celebrated to be viewed through any other paradigm than that of their spectacular difference. In making this argument I explore numerous specific sites of multicultural performance in which Caribbean-Canadian women participate: the literary-critical industry (exemplified by the celebratory treatment of the authors Dionne Brand, M. NourbeSe Philip and Claire Harris); Toronto’s Caribana festival (which I examine primarily in the context of visual representation and the development of a mode of gaze I term “tourism at home”); dub poetry (with particular reference to a matrilineal tradition that develops within Canadian dub poetry and renders it distinct from the performance of dub in other locations); the feminist monodrama (Trey Anthony’s ’Da Kink in My Hair and its TV adaptation); and finally, activism in response to emergent events. Intertwined in all these explorations are questions of space (I begin by exploring the extent to which “my” Canada is refracted through my experiences of my home city of Toronto), of black female bodies, and of agency. This final question becomes particularly salient as my project works towards a conclusion and asks what space is available to the performers of multiculturalism to resist or reappropriate the demand that they perform their non-Canadianness in order to be granted their Canadianness.
Postcolonial, Literature, Performance, Critical Race Studies, Anti-racism, Dub poetry, Carnival, Caribana, Toronto, Postmodernism, Feminism
Wall, N. (2019). Transnational Cultural Capital: Managing Diversity in Caribbean-Canadian Women’s Performance of Multiculturalism (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from