African Canadian Feminisms: Back to the Drawing Board
Njoki Nathani Wane, Katerina Deliovsky and Erica Lawson
While Back to the Drawing Board identifies experiences of people from different classes, sexualities and origins, these experiences have shared backgrounds and histories in relation to oppression as a consequence of racism and the effects of colonialism. Njoki Nathani Wane Tamari Kitossa and Dolana Mogadime all offer differing perspectives that unite through their comments on Black feminist thought. Njoki Nathani Wane’s writing Drawing on the Experiences of my Sisters comments on Black feminist thought from a Canadian perspective. Throughout this essay Wane identifies the issues inherent within feminism, she stresses the fact that White feminisms do not include Black feminist thought, “Theories such as Western feminism, which seek to explain the nature of women’s oppression, may not speak directly to the experiences of Black women” to which she lays out the focus of her essay by posing the question: ‘is Black feminist thought no more than White mainstream feminism with a prefix?’ Her research she carried out with her class of students in 1999 carried her to this conclusion, -“Black feminist thought is a theoretical tool meant to elucidate and analyse the historical, social, cultural and economic relationships of women of African descent as the basis for development of a laboratory praxis. It is a paradigm that is grounded in the historical as well as the contemporary experiences of Black women as mothers, activists, academics and community leaders. It can be applied to situate Black women’s past and present experiences that are grounded in their multiple oppressions.” Throughout this essay Wane also wishes to articulate the issue that Black feminist though on African-American theory doesn’t speak to Canadian experience and she stresses the importance of the need for a theoretical framework that doesn’t fragment African-Canadian women’s experiences.
Tamari Kitossa’s writing Criticism, Reconstruction and African-Centred Feminist Historiography looks at African-centred feminist historiography. Throughout his essay, Kitossa raises important issues with the construction of Western feminism and brings to the foreground questions about racial representation and the idea that Western feminism chose to neglect radicalized women, thus setting up a framework that misrepresents and entire gender.
Dolana Mogadime’s work approaches Black feminist thought through more of an educational stance, her chapter looks at Black women in graduate studies and offers a ‘critique of the limitations that contribute to the oppressive reproduction of Black women who are marginalized in the world of academia.’ Dolana introduces her essay by stating, ‘the institutional climate at the departmental level in higher education poses particular challenges to Black women and other women of colour who are graduate students and faculty’, ultimately supporting Linda Carty’s argument that her work as a Black woman teaching at university level is ‘rare’ and how this in turn highlights the unacceptably low level of racial inclusion of Black women in high education institutions. Dolana Mogadime carried out a study at two universities where she looked at how the professional social environment and socialization plays a role in the development of academic careers. Throughout he study she found that Black students faced more scrutiny and underwent significantly more constraints as they went through the socialization process, outlining that White graduate students were more supported for academic positions while Black graduates were not, thus identifying the racial lines and limitations prevalent in the academic sphere and calling for a self critique and change in Canadian institutions of education.
Furthering Dolana Mogadime’s argument, Wane’s final essay addresses African-Canadian Women and the Academy. Wane addresses the issue that ‘marginalized groups show how the educational system has been locked into a paradigm of Euro centrism.’ Wane highlights that one of the most prominent issues within education results from the fact that the validation of information on certain subjects relies on the hegemony of White males, they set the criteria and information on what is regarded as valid knowledge, ‘the knowledge produced by marginalized groups is subjugated by the dominant group and the exclusion of Africa-Canadian women scholars from academic courses demonstrate the euro-patriarchal structure in place.’ To conclude her work, Wane articulates the need for African-Canadian women to talk about their experiences and the need for these realities to be translated into the academies so that a critical space for Black feminist thought can thrive.