A Postcolonial conception of the High School Multicultural Literature Curriculum
A summary of a doctoral dissertation by Jim Greenlaw

SSTA Research Report #95-05: 53 pages, $14.

The Post Curriculum Conception In many high schools, English teachers have been developing literature curricula to meet the needs of their culturally diverse students. However, because in most cases these educators have not had at their disposal the interpretative techniques of postcolonial literary theorists, they have been relying, instead, for their reading strategies upon traditional literary theories. Unfortunately, when teachers employ New Critical, archetypal, feminist, or reader-response methods of literary analysis in their reading of multicultural literature, they are often unaware of the Eurocentric biases contained within these perspectives. This lack of understanding of their theoretical frame of reference can then lead teachers to encourage their students to accept uncritically problematic representations of various cultural groups as they encounter these representations in their literary texts. Postcolonial literary theory, on the other hand, encourages students to problematize Eurocentric representations of imperialism's Others.
Identity Formation in Schools
Pedagogical Problems and Literary Representation
Multicultural Literature
Deconstructing the Discourse of Race
Border Pedagogy
Textual Power
Students Fashion Their Own Cultural Identities
Students Resist Eurocentric Misrepresentations
Orientalism
Primitivism
The Hyphenated Self
The English Language and a Sense of Place
Chapter Summaries
Multicultural Literacy
Ethical Relativism
Future Research and Teaching Opportunities
Recommendations for School Boards

Back to: Students - Diverse Needs


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1. Introduction

Among the themes listed in the SSTA Research Centre's 1995 Research and Development Priorities are two which have also been very important to me during my doctoral studies over the past four years: 1) How do Indian and Metis children perceive their educational experience? and 2) What are appropriate guidelines for school use of Internet information? (I paraphrase the second question.) The Native and non-Native students whom I studied for a portion of my dissertation communicated with each other via the Internet during the Spring of 1993 as part of a project called "Kids from Kanata" which was funded by the Federal Government and endorsed by Ovid Mercredi. During the course of their communications which involved both e-mail and real-time chats the students shared information about their families, their cultural activities, their problems as teenagers, and their understanding of Native poetry. As the students grew to know one another they learned much about each other's cultures and came away from the experience with positive attitudes about their e-mail partners.

Since completing my thesis I have continued to discover other potential sources on the Internet for developing intercultural awareness among teachers and students through my involvement with the Internet's "Multicultural Education" and "Native" newsgroups, and I expect that my work in this area has really just begun. Thus far in Saskatchewan, for instance, since I began teaching here in July as a Secondary English/Language Arts professor at the University of Regina's Faculty of Education, I have been working with Dianne Yee, a principal in Swift Current, who is leading the province in the area of cross-cultural computer-mediated communication for middle years students of different cultures by connecting them with each other on SaskEd's Electronic Bulletin Board System. During the "Connections: The Saskatchewan Soul" Conference, May 4-6, in Regina, Dianne and I made a presentation together about future possibilities for Saskatchewan students to use the Internet to connect locally, nationally, and internationally with students from other cultures to develop their intercultural communication skills and cross-cultural awareness and to overcome stereotypical notions about one another.

As Saskatchewan's Indian and Metis student populations continue to grow over the next decade it is important that researchers and teachers make every effort to serve the needs of these students and to foster intercultural awareness and harmonious race relations among all of the students in the province's education system. As the province's English teachers attempt to achieve these goals I sincerely hope that the postcolonial conception of the high school multicultural literature curriculum which I have developed and which I am continuing to refine will prove helpful to them in their important work.

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2. The Postcolonial Curriculum Conception

Currently, in many high schools throughout Canada and the United States, English teachers have been developing literature curricula to meet the needs of their culturally diverse students. However, because in most cases these educators have not had at their disposal the interpretative techniques of such postcolonial literary theorists as Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak, they have been relying, instead, for their reading strategies upon traditional literary theories. The term "postcolonial" as it is used by such theorists refers to a new way of investigating such themes as cultural dislocation, racism, identity formation, etc., through comparisons of experiences across majority and minority (or dominant and subaltern) cultural groups. The real problems that exist in the lives of Metis students in Saskatchewan, for instance, who are torn between cultures, are often addressed in novels such as Beatrice Culletin's April Raintree. Postcolonial literary theory gives students the tools they need in order to examine the cultural dilemmas of Culletin's characters at the same time as it provides these students with the opportunity to begin to grapple with their own identity problems.

On the other hand, unfortunately, when teachers employ New Critical, archetypal, feminist, or reader-response methods of literary analysis in their reading of multicultural literature, they are often unaware of the Eurocentric biases contained within these perspectives. This lack of understanding of their theoretical frame of reference can then lead teachers to encourage their students to accept uncritically problematic representations of various cultural groups as they encounter these representations in their literary texts. Postcolonial literary theory, in contrast, encourages students to problematize Eurocentric representations of minority cultures.

The advantage to students who use postcolonial reading strategies in order to become aware of the different ways in which people at the margins and centres of society view each other is that they can thus attain higher levels of multicultural literacy by performing more sophisticated and complex interpretations of their texts than they might have done using traditional interpretative approaches. At the same time, the students' use of postcolonial reading strategies can help them to become more effective intercultural communicators as they cross cultural borders by carrying out collaborative responses to literary texts with students whose heritage differs from their own.

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3. Narratives as Contested Textual Terrains

This project involved a critique of existing conceptions of the high school multicultural literature curriculum by comparing their key features with those of the postcolonial conception. The principal focus of the investigation was upon how the postcolonial approach can help students to understand, more effectively than can traditional conceptions, the necessarily dynamic and heterogeneous textual representations of dominant and subaltern cultures to be found in both Eurocentric and postcolonial literary texts.

In the postcolonial conception of the high school multicultural literature curriculum, narratives are thought to be contested terrains in which the discourses of imperialism and its Others struggle for control over how people and places are to be represented. Edward Said, the leading postcolonial theorist of the past two decades, has recently emphasized just how important to the study of literature is a theory which accounts, on the one hand, for the ways cultural representations are affected by imperialism and, on the other, for the ways imperialist nations depend upon narratives of empire for much of their control over colonial lands and subjects. In Said's Culture and Imperialism, the sequel to his foundational work of postcolonial theory, Orientalism (1978), he explains how the literary texts of empire and its Others are "rich cultural documents" (1993, p. 20) in which the literary student as ethnographer can find evidence of the imperial interaction as it is experienced by members of both metropolitan and marginal communities.

Of central importance to postcolonial theory, as Said elucidates it, is the notion that imperial hegemony, subaltern resistance, and the production of narratives are inextricably linked both in the centres of empire such as London, Paris, and New York, and at its periphery in places such as India, Algeria, and Panama:

Stories are at the heart of what explorers and novelists say about strange regions of the world; they also become the method colonized people use to assert their identity and the existence of their own history. The main battle in imperialism is over land, of course; but when it came to who owned the land, who had the right to settle and work on it, who kept it going, who won it back, and who now plans its future - these issues were reflected, contested, and even for a time decided in narrative. As one critic has suggested, nations themselves are narrations. The power to narrate, or block other narratives from forming and emerging, is very important to culture and imperialism, and constitutes one of the main connections between them. Most important, the grand narratives of emancipation and enlightenment mobilized people in the colonial world to rise up and throw off imperial subjection; in the process many Europeans and Americans were also stirred by these stories and their protagonists, and they too fought for new narratives of equality and human community. (pp. xii-xiii)

Where, in the past, empire's Others were routinely defined in dominant culture discourse as primitive, lazy, mysterious, or exotic, once these individuals seized the opportunities to produce their own oppositional discourses in a variety of resistance literatures, the old stereotypes were replaced with complex representations of self and place. For the postcolonial conception of the high school multicultural literature curriculum, then, culture is seen as an important vehicle for identity formation. But, because from the postcolonial perspective culture itself is viewed as a highly fluid and heterogeneous formation, constructed out of the discourses of its dominant and subaltern groups, the fashioning of such identities was never a one-sided affair. Rather, it involves for imperialism's oppressed Other the subverting and opposing of imperialist discourse at the same time as those useful features of dominant culture narratives are appropriated by the oppressed as strategic weapons in their decolonizing struggles: "We begin to sense that old authority cannot simply be replaced by new authority, but that new alignments made across borders, types, nations, and essences are rapidly coming into view, and it is those new alignments that now provoke and challenge the fundamentally static notion of identity that has been the core of cultural thought during the era of imperialism" (pp. xxiv-xxv).

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4. Identity Formation in Schools

The teacher of multicultural literature in the high school, therefore, must be aware of the ways in which students are engaged in complex and dynamic identity formation and exploration as they position themselves in relation to the dominant and subaltern discourses which they encounter in their literary texts. Said terms his postcolonial approach to the deconstruction of static cultural identities a comparative literature of imperialism. Rather than simply accepting either the discourses of imperialism or those of its different subject groups as the ultimate truths about Western and Third World identities, therefore, postcolonial theorists such as Said employ their methods of comparative analysis in order to search for the points at which these discourses overlap and intertwine. When, for example, Joseph Conrad condemns the atrocities of the European ivory trade in Heart of Darkness (1900) this British imperialist writer who has been justifiably accused by Chinua Achebe of being a "thoroughgoing racist" (Achebe, 1988, p. 11) is at the same time actually portraying Kurtz and Marlow in a manner which in many respects runs parallel to Achebe's vision of imperialism in his novel, Things Fall Apart (1958). In interpreting these two narratives, therefore, it becomes the job of the student of multicultural literature to deconstruct images of Africans and their oppressors by comparing (or as Said terms it, by "counterpointing") the representations of each group in both of these works. Said's method, then, involves expanding "the overlapping community between metropolitan and formerly colonized societies. By looking at the different experiences contrapuntally, as making up a set of what [he calls] intertwined and overlapping histories [Said formulates] an alternative both to a politics of blame and to the even more destructive politics of confrontation and hostility" (1993, p. 18).

As he considers the ways in which schooling helps to perpetuate the static notion of identity, Said observes that students need to spend less time learning to pursue nationalistic interests and more time studying how states, groups, and individuals interact productively:

We are all taught to venerate our nations and admire our traditions: we are taught to pursue their interests with toughness and in disregard for other societies. A new and in [Said's] opinion appalling tribalism is fracturing societies, separating peoples, promoting greed, bloody conflict and uninteresting assertions of minor ethnic or group particularity. Little time is spent not so much in 'learning about other cultures' - the phrase has an inane vagueness to it - but in studying the map of interactions, the actual and often productive traffic occurring on a day-by-day, and even minute-by-minute basis among states, societies, groups, identities. (p. 20)

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5. Pedagogical Problems and Literary Representation

Because most high school multicultural literature programs to date have not taken into account the relationship between cultural representations and imperialism, teachers of such courses have not developed the necessary pedagogical strategies to enable their students to examine the many problems of cultural difference and identity which they encounter during their textual investigations. Instead, when English teachers of multicultural literature courses in the past have been confronted with what they believed to be the "essential and universal truths" about the people and places depicted in their books, they have relied for their interpretations of cultures and of multicultural literature upon such pedagogical approaches as New Criticism, archetypalism, feminism, reader response, and antiracism. Thus, high school teachers and students of Indian, Native, Chinese, Japanese, and African literatures, for example, have not sufficiently problematized the nature of literary representation in their written and oral responses to multicultural literature. My thesis, therefore, is that the postcolonial conception of the high school multicultural literature curriculum can help students to understand, more effectively than can traditional conceptions, how to interpret/deconstruct the necessarily dynamic and heterogeneous textual representations of dominant and subaltern cultures. And it was thus my task in the dissertation to contrast the postcolonial approach to the teaching of multicultural literature in high schools with each of the major traditional approaches which are presently practised in Canada and the United States.

Fortunately, several major postcolonial literary theorists (Edward Said, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Gayatri Spivak, Lisa Lowe, Rey Chow, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Arnold Krupat) have developed theories which take into account the heterogeneous nature of contemporary cultural identities as these have formed during centuries of interaction among dominant and subaltern cultures. From the works of these and other theorists, then, I have derived my postcolonial conception of the high school multicultural literature curriculum. Virtually none of these theorists, however, has given much attention to how postcolonial theory might be used in the high school classroom, so it is one of the tasks of this thesis to establish to what extent a curriculum conception normally associated with undergraduate and graduate Commonwealth and Comparative Literature courses can be adapted for use by teachers of adolescents.

This postcolonial conception is not like many prescriptive multicultural and antiracist projects which set out to produce in students measurable increases in multicultural harmony and decreases in racial bigotry. Instead, the moral imperative behind postcolonial pedagogy is that teachers should conscientiously show students how to deconstruct racist (mis)representations of the Other as these are found in the political, social, and cultural discourses which are inscribed within the literary texts, films, music videos, magazines, newspapers, television shows, and computer forums through which students attempt to interpret their world. If students are taught the postcolonial, deconstructive reading strategies which they need in order to examine critically how literary representations are constructed out of multiple and conflicting discourses, then at the end of a course in multicultural literature, even if they have not become better, more tolerant citizens, they will at least have been given the opportunity to learn how and why racist stereotypical (mis)representations are produced and resisted. Students who become skilled at deconstructing literary works to discover how they are traversed by imperialist and oppositional discursive practices can be said to be multiculturally literate. To provide reading and writing strategies with which students can attain increased levels of multicultural literacy is, therefore, the principal goal of the postcolonial conception.

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6. Multicultural Literature

In order to understand how postcolonial literary theory can enable students' to respond to the complexities of multicultural literature it may be helpful to begin by explaining the relationship between postcolonial and multicultural literatures. Although the terms "postcolonial literature" and "multicultural literature" bear a family resemblance, they are not exactly synonymous. For John Borovilos, an Ontario high school English teacher (whose program I analyse in Chapter 7 of this thesis), multicultural literature comprises world literature (either translated into or written in English), immigrant literature, ethnic (or minority) literature, and Native literature (1987, pp. 4-5). In other words, almost all literature qualifies as multicultural literature under this broad definition.

Postcolonial literature, on the other hand, has been defined more narrowly by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin in their very important study of postcolonial literary theory, The Empire Writes Back (1989). For these theorists, postcolonial literature is "writing by those peoples formerly colonized by Britain, though much of what it deals with is of interest and relevance to countries colonized by other European powers, such as France, Portugal, and Spain" (Ashcroft, 1989, p. 1). However, the term, "postcolonial," does not only refer to an historical period following colonial rule in places such as India, Africa, Australia, and Canada. It has also recently come to refer to a method of literary analysis which is known as "the new cross-cultural criticism" (p. 2).

The multicultural literature course which I developed and taught to OAC English (grade 13) students in Ontario contains works by Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Native, and African writers and by writers from the diasporas of these cultural groups. I detail my reasons for selecting these writers' works in subsequent chapters as I compare how the postcolonial conception differs from traditional methods of reading multicultural literature. Given the definition above of postcolonial literature, my choice of African, Indian, and Native literary works for the course can be explained simply. For instance, the discourse of black writers in Africa and in Canada has obviously been affected by European imperialism, and so any study of their works will be enhanced by the students' use of postcolonial reading techniques.

My decision, on the other hand, to employ postcolonial reading strategies to help students to understand Chinese and Japanese literature requires justification. The lessons learned about the relationships between imperialism and culture in the study of postcolonial literature can be applied to the interpretation of most world literatures of the past two centuries with equally fruitful results. Postcolonial critical terms identified by Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin, such as intercultural conflict, displacement, syncreticity, ethnographic detail, intertextuality, authenticity, cultural heterogeneity, and linguistic variance, can form the basis for analyses of Japanese or Chinese writing in English just as effectively as these critical tools can be used to analyse postcolonial literature. Thus, although works written in Japan or China do not technically belong to the category of postcolonial literature, postcolonial theory has much to say about how such books can be interpreted. Issues of East-West cultural exchange and conflict which arise in these works can be discussed very effectively in postcolonial terms as can matters of Japanese and American imperialism, and of the foreign influences, both past and present, upon Chinese history, politics, economy, and culture. Also, how these works are perceived by Canadian high school students, whether or not they are of European, Chinese, or Japanese descent, has much to do with the way British and American representations have shaped their perceptions of Japan and China through, for example, such movies as The Karate Kid, Taipan, The Last Emperor, and The Joy Luck Club.

If students are encouraged to compare the cultural perspectives presented in books such as Joy Kogawa's Japanese-Canadian novel, Obasan (1981), with the viewpoints of Japanese writers such as Yukio Mishima and Kobo Abe, then they will be better able to investigate the similarities and differences between these perspectives and they will also have a better chance to question their own assumptions about Japanese and Japanese-Canadian people. Just as there are differences or gaps between the ways Japanese and Japanese-Canadian writers describe their worlds, so within the discourse of Japanese-Canadian writers their multicultural experiences open up spaces where their views as members of the Japanese diaspora come into conflict with their perspectives as Canadians. And in literature written in Japan the struggle between, for example, traditional and modern discourse, or between "Eastern" and "Western" perspectives and values, opens further gaps which can provide sites for students' investigations into intercultural influences and conflicts.

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7. Deconstructing the Discourse of Race

When discussing the themes of a particular multicultural novel or short story, students can relate the various conflicts which arise between the discourses within a text to the parallel conflicts in other relevant fiction, newspapers, history texts, etc.. Thus, the text under discussion is no longer viewed as a unified and closed work of art to be appreciated only in aesthetic terms, but as a collection of opposing discourses which are connected to conflicts that extend well beyond the borders of the text. At the same time, the gaps created within literary works by the omission or silencing of certain relevant discourses can be filled by students using appropriate supplementary materials so that they can extend their discussions of themes and conflicts in the directions which they deem to be important.

One important theme of much multicultural literature is, obviously, racism. And, because this theme is of central significance to the postcolonial conception of the high school multicultural literature curriculum, it is, therefore, necessary that students be given the opportunity early in such a program to problematize the notion of race if they are to learn how to deconstruct racist discourse as they encounter it in their texts. For instance, sociologist, Robert Miles, has argued in his book, Racism (1989), that, while the concept of "race" has been used for centuries (with contextual variations) to privilege one group of people over another on the basis of racial difference, no empirically nor philosophically justifiable claim can be made that races are essentially different from one another.

Henry Louis Gates Jr., in his article, "Writing 'Race' and the Difference It Makes" (1985), while sharing Miles' view that racial differences are social and political constructions, also argues that the term 'race' has traditionally been used to exclude non-European literature from the canon of great literary works worthy of study in the English curriculum:

The question of the place of texts written by the Other (be that odd metaphorical negation of the European defined as African, Arabic, Chinese, Latin American, Yiddish, or female authors) in the proper study of "literature," "Western literature," or "comparative literature" has, until recently, remained an unasked question, suspended or silenced by a discourse in which the canonical and the noncanonical stand as the ultimate opposition. In much of the thinking about the proper study of literature in this century, race has been an invisible quantity, a persistent yet implicit presence. (p. 2)

As Henry Giroux sees the problem of racism in education from his perspective as a curriculum theorist, he believes that it is necessary for teachers to "demonstrate that the views we hold about race have different historical and ideological weight, forged in asymmetrical relations of power, and that they always embody interests that shape social practices in particular ways" (1992, p. 138).

Postcolonial deconstructive reading strategies offer teachers and students a means of opposing racist discourse by helping them to question ethical beliefs and ethnocentric biases in their texts, in their class discussions, and in their interactions with the world outside the classroom. Aronowitz and Giroux argue that such reading strategies can help both majority and minority students to learn to deconstruct the discourse of race through their reading of multicultural texts:

Let's assume that a large number of students in an English class are minority students. Central to affirming the voices of these students is the use of texts that come out of an experience that they can relate to and engage critically. Such texts allow these particular students to connect with them in the contexts of their own histories and traditions. Such texts also provide another language and voice by which other students can understand how differences are constructed, for better or worse, within the dominant curriculum. Similarly, different texts offer all students forms of counter-memory that make visible what is often unrepresentable in many English classrooms. (1991, pp. 101-102)

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8. Border Pedagogy

In his attempts to develop a pedagogical theory which would address among other things the problematic quality of multicultural literary representations, Henry Giroux has coined the phrase "border pedagogy" to focus attention on "the situated nature of knowledge, the partiality of all knowledge claims, the indeterminacy of history and the shifting, multiple and often contradictory nature of identity" (1992, p. 26). Giroux believes that if students are encouraged to cross over the many borders which are constructed within discourses of race, gender, class, and nation, for instance, they can eventually learn to use diverse cultural resources to fashion "new identities within existing configurations of power" (p. 28).

By moving back and forth across the borders which delimit "Occidental" and "Oriental" representations of the Chinese, for instance, students can gain a new power to construct in their own writing more complex representations of Chinese people and places. If they are given the opportunity to perform comparative analyses of works by Chinese and non-Chinese writers, then they will be able to question the assumptions underlying the differences in depiction which they encounter. For Chinese-Canadian and Chinese-American students, the study of writing by authors from the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and North American-Chinese communities can enable them to reconsider their cultural identities on the basis of the richly heterogeneous representations of their cultural heritage which these various writers offer.

Again, using Giroux's notion of border pedagogy, it becomes clear that knowledge forms produced at the margins of the dominant culture, such as world literatures and North American minority literatures, "can be used to redefine the complex, multiple, heterogeneous realities that constitute those relations of difference that make up the experiences of students who often find it impossible to define their identities through the cultural and political codes that characterize the dominant culture" (p. 32). Border pedagogy enables these students "to engage in cultural remapping as a form of resistance" (p. 33) by causing them to then examine how the dominant culture uses the borders of difference it constructs to exclude and silence its Other.

The heterogeneous representations of cultural identity which multicultural literature provides students and teachers, therefore, can help them to break down essentialist notions of self and community. Postcolonial interpretations of such texts enable students to question stereotypical and monocultural definitions of people and to play deconstructively with notions of personal and cultural identity. These investigations, however, are not intended to be psychological exercises in the development of self-esteem, but are rather intended to help students to see how imperial hegemony has affected the ways in which they have come to see themselves and others.

In order to perform interrogations of literary representations of self, Other, and place, students need to understand "how subjectivities are produced within configurations of knowledge and power that exist outside of the immediacy of one's experience but are central to forms of self and social determination" (p. 34). The postcolonial conception of the multicultural curriculum is therefore intended to develop students' abilities to understand how their identities are significantly affected by the ways in which they see themselves defined, for example, within the political, legal, social, and religious discourses which traverse their literary texts:

There are no unified subjects here, only students whose multilayered and often contradictory voices and experiences intermingle with the weight of particular histories that will not fit easily into the master narrative of a monolithic culture. Such borderlands should be seen as sites for both critical analysis and as a potential source of experimentation, creativity, and possibility. Moreover, these pedagogical borderlands where blacks, whites, latinos, and others meet demonstrate the importance of a multicentric perspective that allows students to recognize and analyze how the differences within and between various groups can expand the potential of human life and democratic possibilities. (p. 34)

At the same time as their students are learning to make use of multicentric perspectives to interpret and fashion complex representations of self and place and to resist reductionist and essentialist stereotypes of the Other, teachers of multicultural literature can be using the postcolonial perspective to develop their own deepening awareness "of the discourse of others in order to effect a more dialectical self-critical understanding of the limits, partiality, and particularity of their own politics, values, and pedagogies" (p. 34). As border-crossers, themselves, between the overlapping terrains of knowledge and power, teachers must be willing to "legitimate difference as a basic condition for understanding the limits of one's own knowledge. What border pedagogy makes undeniable is the relational, constructed, and situated nature of one's own politics and personal investment" (pp. 34-35).

Thus, if they hope to engage their students in meaningful cultural criticism and self-reflection, if they wish to make their students conscious of the need to take a stand as agents of social and political change, if they wish to problematize their students' partiality as consumers and producers of knowledge, then it is necessary for teachers as well to make a concerted effort to situate themselves with the Other at the margins of the dominant culture. Giroux notes that teachers need to do this in order to acquire "a sense of how the self is implicated in the construction of Otherness" and "in order to analyze critically the political, social, and cultural lineaments of their own values and voices as viewed from different ideological and cultural spaces" (p. 141).

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9. Textual Power

A first step toward enabling students and teachers to situate themselves within textual terrains so that they can view dominant and subaltern cultures from both the center and the margins is to exercize what Robert Scholes calls "textual power" (1985). Scholes divides textual activities into reading, interpretation, and criticism:

In reading we produce text within text; in interpreting we produce text upon text; and in criticizing we produce text against text. As teachers of literary texts we have two major responsibilities. One is to devise ways for our students to perform these productive activities as fruitfully as possible: to produce oral and written texts themselves in all three of these modes of textualization: within, upon, and against. Our other responsibility is to assist students in perceiving the potent aura of codification that surrounds every verbal text. Our job is not to produce "readings" for our students but to give them the tools for producing their own. (p. 24)

An echo of this orientation toward textual boundaries developed by Scholes can be heard in Giroux's discussion of how students can interact with dominant and subordinate texts from different perspectives:

In addition to reading different texts and refiguring the grounds on which knowledge is produced, border pedagogy takes up the important tasks of establishing conditions for dominant and subordinate texts to be read differently. Texts must be decentered and understood as historical and social constructions marked by the weight of a range of inherited and specified readings. Hence texts can be read by focussing on how different audiences might respond to them, thus highlighting the possibilities of reading against, within, and outside their established boundaries. (1992, p. 30)

Under these circumstances, there can be no ultimately authoritative interpretation of a text, but many contradictory and conflicting readings of it which depend, in part, upon the subject positions adopted by its readers. Within the reading paradigms of Scholes and Giroux students experience pleasure in the activities of identifying with, playing with, and fighting with the discourses which inform particular works of literature.

The degree of students' engagement with issues such as racism will also be determined, of course, by their teacher's ideological orientation toward multicultural education policies and practices. As Giroux has observed, the discourse of multicultural education has generally failed to connect discussions of race with "the wider discourse of power and powerlessness":

Missing here is any attempt to either critique forms of European and American culture that situate difference in structures of domination or reconstruct a discourse of race and ethnicity in a theory of difference that highlights questions of equality, justice, and liberty as part of an ongoing democratic struggle. Multiculturalism is generally about Otherness, but is written in ways in which the dominating aspects of white culture are not called into question and the oppositional potential of difference as a cite of struggle is muted. (p. 117)

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10. Students Fashion Their Own Cultural Identities

If, for instance, a Chinese-Canadian student were to perform a postcolonial interpretation of works such as Sky Lee's Disappearing Moon Cafe (1990) (set in Vancouver's Chinese community) and Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club (1989) (which takes place both in China and in San Francisco's Chinatown), she might ask the question, "How are the people and places described in these books related to my own life?" Although she would probably have been encouraged to ask this same question had her teacher been a multiculturalist using a traditional reader-response pedagogy, as the student writes her postcolonial response she can learn that it is possible to play deconstructively with the notions of self and place which she discovers in these texts instead of attempting to respond as a unified subject appreciating universal truths about an essential Chinese culture. To a certain extent she might feel that the writers' constructions of the Chinese immigrant experience are "true" representations of her own experience. At the same time, however, her teacher could encourage her to consider that, as cultural texts, the books she is reading have been fashioned in relation to other inscriptions of the Chinese experience by, for example, British, Taiwanese, and Hong Kongese writers. Thus, Sky Lee's and Amy Tan's artistic production would be seen to contain a variety of political, economic, historical, and social values which are in some ways reactions against and in other ways reproductions of the values underlying other textual inscriptions of the "Chinese experience." By using literary texts from the Chinese diaspora to help her to determine her cultural identity, this Chinese-Canadian student can construct her own working definition of herself, while, at the same time, she can recognize some of the intertextual and institutional forces which must necessarily enrich and complicate this definition.

As I have explained in detail in Chapter 2 of the dissertation, the postcolonial theory of literary representation has appropriated many of its strategies from the poststructural discourse theories of Foucault and Derrida. However, while deconstructive reading strategies are proving useful to contemporary postcolonial theorists, the desire to privilege the margins over the centre, to question claims of authenticity, and to resist essentialism were all part of the postcolonial approach to abrogating monolithic representations of Europe and its Others and to appropriating the English language for local oppositional uses long before poststructuralism became part of mainstream literary theory. So, in the following examples of applications of the postcolonial theory of representation, while poststructuralism has obviously played a part in the formulation of some of these interpretive strategies, the impetus to problematize literary representations of self, Other, and place originates in the subalterns' desire to resist the dominant culture's (mis)representations of the Other. And, while the postcolonial oppositional stance against an imperialist oppressor is similar to neo-Marxist struggles against racism and to feminist resistance to patriarchal domination, because postcolonialism sees subjects, cultures, and literary works as heterogeneous and multivocal constructions, as I have argued in Chapters 5 and 7, the interpretations of multicultural texts which the postcolonial theory of representation can produce are richer and more complex than those of traditional feminist and antiracist literary criticism.

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11. Students Resist Eurocentric (Mis)representations

As Cornel West describes the social text within which the black diaspora "struggles for identity, dignity (self-confidence, self-respect, self-esteem) and material resources" it is one in which blacks experience a relative lack of power "to represent themselves to themselves and others as complex human beings, and thereby to contest the bombardment of negative degrading stereotypes put forward by white supremacist ideologies" (1990, p. 27).

But West then argues that the solution to this problem is not simply "access to representation in order to produce positive images of homogeneous communities" nor merely the contestation of stereotypes. Rather, "Black cultural workers must constitute and sustain discursive and institutional networks that deconstruct earlier modern Black strategies of identity formation, demystify power relations... and construct more multi-valent and multi-dimensional responses that articulate the complexity and diversity of Black practices in the modern and postmodern world" (p. 29).

In agreement with West, then, the postcolonial approach to the multicultural literature curriculum would encourage students to think of themselves as "cultural workers" whose task it is to deconstruct and reconstruct the "social text" within which we are all caught. At the same time they would be helped to recognize that the cultural politics of difference in which they are engaged "affirms the perennial quest for the precious ideals of individuality and democracy by digging deep in the depths of human particularities and social specificities in order to construct new kinds of connections, affinities and communities across empire, nation, region, race, gender, age, and sexual orientation" (p. 35).

This conception validates the rights and experiences of individual students while helping them to see that they are not alone in their struggles against racial oppression and in their desire to be valued members of both the local and global communities. For the Chinese Canadian student who is trying to find a part of her identity in such works as Disappearing Moon Cafe and The Joy Luck Club, by critically reading the works of Lee and Tan, for instance, she is also reading her world and working to determine her rights within it. In other words, postcolonial critical strategies can help her to enjoy the exploration of the complex web of binary oppositions within and between texts, while, at the same time, they can provide her with some of the tools which she can use to deconstruct and reconstruct her personal and communal identities. When dominant or minority cultural representations of Chinese Canadians do not accord with her own developing view of this community, she should be given the opportunity to fight back through her postcolonial investigations into the various literary representations, both positive and negative, of Chinese people and of the places where they live.

The postcolonial theory of representation is used differently by various theorists, but a common feature of their analyses of Western portrayals of people of colour is to deconstruct the stereotypes which occur in these works. They accomplish these deconstructions by showing how many Western writers employ stereotypes to satisfy the dominant culture's need to define its Others as inferior to whites. To illustrate how a sampling of postcolonial critics employ the theory of representation, I now offer an introductory glimpse at a few of their deconstructions of Western depictions of the Other.

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12. Orientalism

Edward Said's Orientalism (1978) was one of the first postcolonial studies to reveal how Western discourse has created the idea of the "Oriental" as inferior. For centuries European and North American scholars have written government and newspaper reports, novels and short stories, translations of Oriental fiction, linguistic, historical, religious, philosophical, anthropological and geographical studies about Middle and Far Eastern cultures. But, when the values underlying this vast body of scholarship are deconstructed by Said, he reveals that these Orientalist "texts can create not only knowledge but also the very reality they appear to describe. In time such knowledge and reality produce a tradition, or what Michel Foucault calls a discourse, whose material presence or weight, not the originality of a given author is really responsible for the texts produced out of it" (p. 94). The Orientalist attitude in general shares "with magic and with mythology the self-containing, self-reinforcing character of a closed system, in which objects are what they are because they are what they are, for once, for all time, for ontological reasons that no empirical material can either dislodge or alter" (p. 70).

Out of the Orientalists' quest to discover the essential Chinese, or Egyptian, or Indian mentality came a plethora of stereotypes to which Westerners subsequently expected these peoples to conform. Jonathan Spence, in his analysis of twentieth-century Western fictional depictions of China and the Chinese, has observed that Westerners "do not understand China and so we constantly invent it; and what we think we know is constantly disproved" (1990, p. 100). One example analysed by Spence is James Clavell's Taipan (1966). He claims that Western readers prefer to read novels in which the protagonist, the narrator and some of the other characters as well are Western, so that they can use the dialogue and observations of the individuals in order to get their bearings. Eurasian characters also often play useful roles in such fiction as intermediaries between East and West.

Spence identifies specific genres which, he feels, help to "illuminate our own history" more than they enable Westerners to understand the Chinese. "Six [such genres] are apparent: first, fictions which deal with the Chinese within China; secondly, those in which Westerners within China are the focus; thirdly, the world of overseas Chinese; fourthly, the uses made of China as a focus for political statements; fifthly, the fictional value of scholars in China; and finally, the possibilities of what might be called 'internal' Chinas, in which the country itself begins to fade into another mode of discourse" (pp. 100-101). If students become aware of how each of these genres (mis)represent the Chinese from Eurocentric perspectives, then they will be better able to deconstruct such texts as they supplement them with various Chinese representations of their culture and people.

Much as Spence has done with his analysis of novels about China by the British, Renee E. Tajima points out in her article, "Lotus Blossoms Don't Bleed" (1989), that the American movie industry has also perpetuated stereotypical (mis)representations of Asians:

[Images of Asian women] have remained consistently simplistic and inaccurate during the sixty years of largely forgettable screen appearances. There are two basic types: the Lotus Blossom Baby (a.k.a. China Doll, Geisha Girl, shy Polynesian beauty), and the Dragon Lady (Fu Manchu's various female relations, prostitutes, devious madames). There is little in between, although experts may differ as to whether Suzie Wong belongs to the race-blind "hooker with a heart of gold" category, or deserves one all of her own. (p. 309)

By deconstructing such Orientalist stereotypes, therefore, high school students can come to see how literary representations of the Other have provided Western writers with endless opportunities to (mis)represent the majority of the world's population as devious, dangerous, and sub-human.

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13. Primitivism

Marianna Torgovnick has described many stereotypical (mis)representations of the Other in her book, Gone Primitive (1990). Whether dominant culture depictions of "primitive" societies are in the form of ethnographies by Mead and Malinowski or of novels by Conrad and Burroughs, these attempts to capture the Other on celluloid or on the printed page often tell us more about the Westerners' need to subjugate an exotic and savage Other than they tell us about the "essential" qualities of the people they claim to portray. Torgovnick contends that "the word primitive - with its aura of unchangeability, voicelessness, mystery, and difference from the West - has come to be understood as problematic" (p. 20). "For Euro-Americans, then, to study the primitive brings us always back to ourselves, which we reveal in the act of defining the Other" (p. 11). Torgovnick clearly formulates an important aspect of the problem which is central to my own thesis when she remarks that "our attitudes shape representations of the primitive; those representations shape us and our children" (p. 14).

Torgovnick argues that the Western interest in the primitive is based upon "the archaic and evolutionist meanings of the word as the 'original' or 'natural' state of things" (p. 46). Explorations of representations of the primitive are therefore thought to produce explanations of the origins of human nature and social organization:

The belief that primitive societies reveal origins or natural order depends on an ethnocentric sense of existing primitive societies as outside of linear time, and on a corresponding assumption that primitive societies exist in an eternal present which mirrors the past of Western civilization. This temporal illusion has been among the most persistent aspects of primitivism in the West - both in high culture and in popular culture, like the Tarzan novels (p. 46).

Christopher Miller (1990) makes the point when he examines French African literature, whether written by whites or blacks, that it is inscribed in the language of the dominant culture for consumption primarily back in France, and that its content relies in part on observations by white anthropologists in the region. Thus, in order to make their books attractive to European and North American readers, black writers sometimes find themselves dealing in the same commodities and stereotypes that white writers have used to represent Africans in literature.

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14. The Hyphenated Self

One reason for this seeming paradox can be found in Trinh T. Minh-ha's analysis of the predicament of ethnographers. Trinh observes that anthropologists often find themselves attempting to be both insiders and outsiders of a culture at the same time, and, thus, she inadvertently highlights the dilemma which is faced as well by writers and students of multicultural literature:

The injunction to see things from the native's point of view speaks for a definite ideology of truth and authenticity; it lies at the center of every polemical discussion on 'reality' in its relation to 'beauty' and 'truth.' To raise the question of representing the Other is, therefore, to reopen endlessly the fundamental issue of science and art; documentary and fiction; objectivity and subjectivity; universal and personal; masculine and feminine; outsider and insider. (1991, p. 65)

It follows from Trinh's insights, then, that the selves which writers of multicultural literature wish to fashion in their fiction cannot be seen from the inside and the outside simultaneously. Thus students and teachers need to find new ways of understanding what Trinh terms the "hyphenated self," or the self caught between worlds.

Salman Rushdie discusses the problems of being a hyphenated self in his article, "Imaginary Homelands":

England's Indian writers are by no means all the same type of animal. Some of us, for instance, are Pakistani. Others Bangladeshi. Others West, or East, or even South African. And V.S. Naipaul, by now, is something else entirely. This word Indian is getting to be a pretty scattered concept...To be an Indian writer in this society is to face, every day, problems of definition. What does it mean to be 'Indian' outside India? How can culture be preserved without becoming ossified? How should we discuss the need for change within ourselves and our community without seeming to play into the hands of our racial enemies? What are the consequences, both spiritual and practical, of refusing to make any concessions to Western ideas and practices? What are the consequences of embracing those ideas and practices and turning away from the ones that came here with us? (1991, p. 16-18)

Professional writers of multicultural literature such as Rushdie, who live and work in the cultural space between worlds, can provide useful models for students' attempts to define self and place. Like Rushdie, many Canadian students are hyphenated selves. For instance, those who have arrived in Canada recently from countries such as Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, and India are already grappling with the problems of the hyphenated self and of racial tension even before they enter an English classroom. Like Rushdie's expatriate Indian writers, these students are caught between languages, homelands, and cultures. Thus, they can perhaps appreciate to a limited extent the complex dilemma that writers of multicultural literature face when attempting to communicate the features of one world to the inhabitants of another.

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15. The English Language and A Sense of Place

In deconstructing literary representations of place, one of the most pervasive gaps which students can look for within the discourses of multicultural texts is "that which opens between the experience of a place and the language available to describe it" (Ashcroft, 1989, p. 9). In postcolonial texts this gap is associated with the crisis of identity which develops between self and place as a result of the conditions of imperial oppression. For instance, because slaves were separated from their families and from others who spoke their language, and then forced, instead, to speak English in order to survive, the new Englishes such as Creole which they developed did not adequately connect them with their African past or with the strange new land which they came to inhabit. When slaves were taken across the Atlantic to work on plantations, required to practice Christianity, and denied opportunities to enjoy the power and status that could only be achieved by those with full membership within the dominant white society, they lost their feelings of connectedness to their homeland and could only express their relationship to their masters' world through their masters' language.

Similarly, when Native children in Canada were taken away from their parents at a young age and forced to live in residential schools where they were required to speak only English, their identities, their connections to their homeland, and their understanding of the culture of their ancestors were shattered as they were punished for using the Native language with which they might have been able to maintain these connections. The feelings of dislocation or displacement which slaves, indigenous peoples, indentured workers, and immigrants have felt is often reflected in their use of language (Ashcroft, p. 9). And the attempts of writers of multicultural literature to depict place must necessarily reflect the struggles between the Standard English usage of the imperial centre and the various marginal forms of English such as Creole in the Carribean through which the subaltern attempts to speak by appropriating and changing the masters' language to better express their views of themselves and their world.

A number of critical models have been employed by postcolonial theorists in order to categorize and explain the connections between literary works and the places which they are attempting to represent. Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin have identified four such models:

First, 'national' or regional models, which emphasize the distinctive features of the particular national or regional culture; second, race-based models which identify certain shared characteristics across various national literatures, such as the common racial inheritance in literatures of the African diaspora addressed by the 'Black writing' model; third, comparative models of varying complexity which seek to account for particular linguistic, historical, and cultural features across two or more postcolonial literatures; fourth, more comprehensive comparative models which argue for features such as hybridity and syncreticity as constitutive elements of postcolonial literatures (syncretism is the process by which previously distinct linguistic categories, and, by extension, cultural formations, merge into a single new form). (1989, p. 15)

Regardless of which of these models the students employ in their analyses, the postcolonial theory of representation requires students to interrogate the various values systems that have informed the constructions of people and places to be found in their texts:

[Representations] are always produced within cultural limits and theoretical borders, and as such are necessarily implicated in particular economies of truth, value, and power. In relation to these larger axes of power in which all representations are embedded, it is necessary to remind the student: Whose interests are being served by the representations in question? Within a given set of representations, who speaks, for whom, and under what conditions? Where can we situate such representations ethically and politically with respect to questions of social justice and human freedom? What moral, ethical, and ideological principles structure our reactions to such representations? (Giroux, 1992, p. 219)

Postcolonial deconstructions of literary representations of place can help students to open up the borders of their imaginations and to confront the stereotypical simplifications and exaggerations which writers sometimes employ in the construction of fictive worlds. Stephen Gray, in his "Sense of Place in the New Literatures in English" (1986), observes that setting or place is perhaps the most important distinguishing feature of multicultural literature. Gray describes four models of a "sense of place" in world literature:

  1. verbal safariing - this type of writing provides the armchair traveller with the flavor, the adventures, and the exotic novelty of "other" places, often reinforcing rather than overcoming racist stereotypes,
  2. the foreign land as home - writers who have lived in a "foreign land" long enough to consider it home often reject the phase one depictions of their place and wish to see the landscape as do their indigenous peers,
  3. indigenous writers fight back - these descriptions of the ancestral landscape deal with the issues and effects of oppression and the contingent problems of recovering dignity and human values,
  4. multicultural representation - the coexistence of two or more cultures in the same place is reflected in the influences of these cultures on the writers' representations of their land.

These models of the types of postcolonial literature and of various senses of place can help students and teachers to problematize the representation of place in their responses to multicultural literature. As students compare representations of the same place by different writers, they will learn how to avoid thinking about people and their worlds in stereotypical terms. They will also learn that we can only know a place from our biased perspectives. The students' notions of a particular place are not, therefore, the unmediated depictions of a real land, but are composite fictive constructions based, in part, upon their readings of various writers' images of that place.

When I claim that multicultural literature can give students a sense of place for the countries from which their texts derive, then, I am not suggesting that authors could ever simply (re)present to us in words a place's underlying presence or reality. In other words, their writing cannot be a clear reflection of their world. Writers of multicultural fiction are obviously aware that their works exist in relation to religious and national mythologies, generic conventions, political tropes, etc. Therefore, they can use the rhetorical tools of their trade to fortify dominant culture discourse or to dismantle it. James Snead seems to be in accord with this point as he considers the ending of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart (1958):

Things Fall Apart expropriates and pre-empts (albeit only in fiction) the written form in which the English language has assaulted an unwritten Ibo reality. The ironic ending, in which the district commissioner decides to capture the entire tale in 'the book which he planned to write [The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger]' recapitulates the ongoing process of cultural interpretation and redefinition which typically worked to the detriment of blacks... Yet it is Achebe who, through writing Things Fall Apart, pre-empts an attempted white usurpation of his story and his culture, trapping the 'official version' within a more sympathetic history. (1990, p. 242)

Thus, Achebe uses the English language to insert his Ibo view of the world into the dominant white colonial discourse in order to cause a disruption of its historical metanarrative with his oppositional supplement. Whether a writer is consciously subverting the dominant culture's discourse through oppositional supplementation (as does Achebe) or, conversely, is representing the subaltern negatively to validate the dominant group's authority, the act of (re)presentation is problematic for postcolonial critics and, therefore, a potentially useful starting point for students' critical analyses of multicultural literature. W.J.T. Mitchell describes the problem of the gap between literary depictions and the reality which they are intended to reflect in this way. "Every representation exacts some cost, in the form of lost immediacy, presence, or truth, in the form of a gap between intention and realization, original and copy" (1990, p. 21). Therefore, writers who claim to be holding the mirror up to nature, to be capturing the essence of a place and its people, can be shown by the high school literature student to be constructors of cultural products which are no more transparently reflective of a supposed reality outside the text than are such purposely self-deconstructing meta-fictions as Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (1980).

It is not the place in itself which should be the object of study when students attempt to deconstruct and reconstruct a sense of place, but the problematic attempts of the writer to capture that place in the web of intertextuality that should be of interest in the multicultural literature class. This web of intertextuality is not merely a literary invention. Rather, it involves all types of texts, including the political, religious, economic, and social. As Gayatri Spivak reminds us, effective postcolonial teaching of multicultural literature "should slide without a sense of rupture into an active and involved reading of the social text within which the student and teacher of literature are caught" (1985a, p. 34). For Spivak the social text comprises not only the social constraints within a classroom which tend to silence marginalized students, but it is to be found as well in the societal discourses which extend well beyond the walls of the classroom and which shape both literary and pedagogical discursive practices.

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16. Chapter Summaries

In Chapter 3, after explaining some of the significant differences between New Criticism and deconstruction by examining New Critical theories and curricula, I discussed how the postcolonial discourse theory of Orientalism, first developed by Edward Said and then critiqued and adapted by James Clifford, Lisa Lowe, Jane Miller, and Madan Sarup, could be used to provide alternatives to New Critical readings of such texts as E. M. Forster's novel, A Passage to India. I also explained what Said's comparative literary approach to imperialism means by discussing his analysis of Forster's text. Then I concluded the chapter with an examination of some Ontario senior high school students' responses to the writing of Bharati Mukherjee and Mahasweta Devi.

In Chapter 4 I contrasted archetypal literary analyses with postcolonial critiques of the mythological elements in Native literature. Next, I considered the relationship between the Native oral tradition and contemporary Native story telling. Then I concluded the chapter by providing examples of some grade 12 Ontario students' attempts to share their perspectives on Native poetry and culture via e-mail communications on the Kids from Kanata Computer Network with Native students at a Reserve in British Columbia.

Chapter 5 was devoted to examining the contrast between mainstream and postcolonial feminist approaches to the reading and writing of such autobiographical works as Maxine Hong Kingston's Woman Warrior (1976). A group of OAC students' efforts to respond to Kingston's autobiographical fiction were discussed in connection with feminist and postcolonial theories about inscriptions of self. As well, their analyses of other novels by and about Chinese women provided opportunities to illustrate how high school students postcolonial feminist readings can differ from traditional feminist readings.

In Chapter 6 I deconstructed the notions of unified self and essential culture which Louise Rosenblatt posits in her reader-response paradigm: reader + text = poem. By analysing how Chinese-Canadian students in Vancouver and bilingual Japanese students in Kyoto collaborated via e-mail in order to produce their interpretations of a Japanese short story in translation, I showed that Trinh Minh-ha's postcolonial theory of the hyphenated self better explains students' responses to multicultural literature than do traditional reader-response theories. The "Network Theory" of Barker & Kemp (1990) was also briefly examined to explain how Giroux's desire to extend students' imaginative reach beyond the walls of the classroom can be achieved in part through the use of computer communications.

In Chapter 7, after establishing the differences between antiracism and other approaches to dealing with racism in education, I attempted to illustrate how the postcolonial theory of representation provides a more subtle and complex method of reading multicultural literature than does the antiracist approach which is presently advocated in Ontario high schools. I then critiqued the antiracist, multicultural literature textbook and program of studies devised by John Borovilos for the Ontario Ministry of Education by contrasting his conception of the curriculum with my postcolonial conception. At the conclusion of this chapter, in order to illustrate how the postcolonial theory of representation can be used by students to deconstruct multicultural literature, I provided examples of OAC English students' postcolonial interpretations of short stories and novels written by African and African-American writers. These examples were taken from the students response journals and independent study research projects.

In the concluding chapter I argued that the principal goal of the postcolonial curriculum conception is to develop multicultural literacy in students. I therefore explained in more detail the differences between cultural and multicultural literacy. Then my brief reconsideration of each of the traditional conceptions discussed in previous chapters involved contrasting the ways in which the postcolonial conception is more effective than these other conceptions at enabling students to become multiculturally literate. Finally, I concluded Chapter 8 by offering recommendations for future theoretical and practical research and curriculum projects which could extend the work begun in this dissertation.

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17. Multicultural Literacy

Throughout the thesis I chose to use the term multicultural literacy, rather than cultural literacy, to describe the reading and writing skills acquired by the students I have studied. I defined multicultural literacy in Chapter 2 as involving students in the interpretation of various literatures, and I, thus, distinguished it from E. D. Hirsch's (1987) notion of cultural literacy which encourages students instead to focus primarily upon classic and modern works of the Western literary tradition. In so doing I attempted to emphasize how important it is for the teacher, as border pedagogue, to encourage students to deconstruct notions of cultural difference which they encounter in their texts. Such postcolonial responses to texts enable students to analyse literary representations from multiple perspectives, thereby calling into question writers' stereotypical depictions of cultural groups. It obviously lies beyond the scope of this thesis to state in quantifiable terms the extent to which the students in my study benefitted from their experiences. Nevertheless, each time I read their response journals, tests, essays, and e-mail correspondence in order to assess the levels of multicultural literacy attained by the students, I asked myself whether or not they had come to a better understanding of themselves and their peers. At the same time I considered to what extent their work with multicultural literature and their efforts at intercultural communication changed their views of the various cultures they studied.

In Roger Simon's book, Teaching Against the Grain: Texts for a Pedagogy of Possibility (1992), he argues that young readers need to be given opportunities to "shift the grounds of [their] own readings" (p. 114):

We might take the central aim of textual study as self-referential. That is, through a study of one's responses to text, one can be helped to locate oneself (one's perceptions, beliefs, desires) within the very 'worldly' discourses that constitute a person's way of being in the world. This would be done with the intent of raising questions as to the commitments, ethics, limitations, and possibilities of such discourses. This effort would be part of a pedagogical project that is concerned with helping students to come to a better understanding of who they are, how their history has been constituted, and how this knowledge can open up possibilities for change and enhancement, not only of their own lives but the lives of others as well. (pp. 114-115)

As I now briefly summarize some of the students' gains in multicultural literacy which I have recorded throughout my dissertation, I subscribe to Simon's vision of the central aim of textual study which is to help students to understand who they are and how they can change and enhance not only "their own lives but the lives of others as well." In Chapter 3, for example, during one student's comparison of representations of Indian women in Forster's A Passage to India and Mukherjee's Jasmine and "The Management of Grief," she claimed to have learned a great deal about the difficulties encountered by Indian immigrant women in Canada, while, at the same time, she felt that she had gained an appreciation of the different ways in which Indian women were portrayed by each writer. The Native students in British Columbia and the non-Native students in Ontario whom I studied in Chapter 4, when given the opportunity to share, via computer communications, their impressions of family relationships and of racism, discovered both that they possessed a common respect for the stories of their elders and that each of their communities suffered, in different ways and to different degrees, from the effects of European imperialism's legacy of institutional racism. The young men and women students whom I observed in Chapter 5 exercised their skills at feminist interpretations of stories about Chinese women by both Chinese and British writers as they gained a new appreciation of the complexities of autobiographical fiction and of the contrasting values and discourses of first- and second-generation Chinese-Americans. In Chapter 6, the collaborative responses which took place between bilingual Japanese students in Kyoto and Chinese-Canadian students in Vancouver enabled them not only to understand more clearly the themes and symbols of the Japanese short story which they studied together, but their collaborations also taught them that they were not alone in their feelings of dislocation as they attempted to share with each other what it means to be, in Trinh Minh-ha's terms, hyphenated selves. And, finally, the comparative analyses which students carried out in Chapter 7 between the representations of Africans which they discovered in the works of Eurocentric and postcolonial writers, helped them to attain a sophistication in their understanding of the differences between the writing, for example, of the tourist, Ernest Hemingway, and the resistance writer, Chinua Achebe, which they could not have achieved without border pedagogy's postcolonial approach to the development of multicultural literacy. It is reasonable to conclude, then, that the students' exposure to a rudimentary postcolonial theory of representation provided them with a broader base of reading and writing strategies and theoretical insights into the relationship between imperialism and culture than they would have had access to had they responded to their multicultural texts using only traditional literary critical reading strategies. Indeed, they repeatedly demonstrated in their work, not only their newly acquired skill at comparing Eurocentric and postcolonial representations of dominant and subaltern cultures, but also their personal engagement with the moral, political, religious, and economic issues raised in the various discourses of their multicultural texts as they reassessed their own cultural assumptions in relation to those which they had encountered during their studies.

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18. Ethical Relativism

Even though I endeavoured in each chapter to argue that the postcolonial conception, in developing students' multicultural literacy, has helped them to interrogate oppressive imperialist discourses, some would object, nevertheless, that the postcolonial approach contains no strong moral principles, such as those advocated, for example, within the antiracist conception, upon which to base the teaching of ethical problem solving and critical thinking skills. But this type of objection, which is directed not only against postcolonial literary theory but also against any other theories which make use of deconstructive methods of anaylsis, is based upon too narrow an understanding of the problem of authority which I have been discussing in this chapter and with the problem of representation which I have addressed throughout this thesis. When critics of postcolonialism's apparent lack of ethical principles misinterpret attempts by theorists such as Said and Spivak to expose the injustices perpetuated through imperialism's discourse practices, at the centre of these critics' misunderstandings of the postcolonial project is the fact that deconstruction eschews any claims to moral objectivity. Nevertheless, the various attacks which Foucault has made upon the oppressive discourse practices of penitentiaries and psychiatric hospitals, and which Said has carried out against Orientalist discourses, can hardly be considered amoral (or immoral) projects, based as they are upon problematizing the relationship between power and knowledge.

In order for the postcolonial conception of the multicultural literature curriculum to be recognized as a pedagogy of moral engagement, or, to use Roger Simon's (1992) term, a "pedagogy of possibility," it is important that students and teachers understand why, at the same time, deconstructions of intertextual networks of power/knowledge are not concerned with the illusive task of achieving moral objectivity in literary analyses. Christopher Norris (1982) summarizes the ways Michel Foucault and Edward Said deal with the relationships which they have discovered between power and knowledge in the following passage:

Foucault follows Nietzsche in deconstructing those systems of thought which mask their incessant will to power behind a semblance of objective knowledge. His analysis of these various 'discursive practices' constantly points to their being involved in a politics none the less real for its inextricably textual character. Edward Said, in his book, Orientalism (1978), has offered a very practical example of how deconstruction can engage cultural history on its own textual ground and contest its claims to objectivity. The image of 'the Orient' constructed by generations of scholars, poets and historians is shown to be governed by an ethnocentric discourse secure in the power of its superior wisdom. Occidental reason is confirmed point for point in its mythography of oriental laziness, guile and 'exotic' irrationalism. To combat this discourse by exposing its ruses of metaphor is not to set up as a 'science' unmasking the confusions of ideology. It is an act of challenge which situates itself on rhetorical ground the better to meet and turn back the claims of a spurious objectivity. (pp. 87-8)

Poststructuralists such as Foucault and Said do have an ethical position, therefore, but their moral stance is based upon exposing the contradictions, damaging pretences, and false claims of objectivity which they discover in the oppressive discourses of the dominant culture. Nevertheless, the problematic nature of the interconnections between power and knowledge in the discursive practices examined by Foucault and Said have lead many postcolonial theorists to conclude that a form of ethical relativism or pragmatism is a necessary feature of the study of multicultural literature. Such a stance requires the moral agent to acknowledge that ethical principles are always open to challenge or revision. It also requires the agent, however, on a regular basis, to reason through and defend those ethical principles which she or he considers to be of worth. Christopher Miller (1990), in the chapter, "Ethnicity and Ethics," from his book, Theories of Africans (1990), after justifying the relativism which he feels must be a part of his studies of African literature, concludes that it is more dangerous to fail to relativize one's own beliefs when reading the literature of other cultures than it is to remain within them:

Unless the Western critic attempts to suspend - to hold in at least temporary abeyance - the systematic criteria and judgements that emanate from Western culture, ethnocentrism will persist forever. There is no way to break down intellectual imperialism if Western disciplines are not reconceived as 'local knowledge.' The Western critic must, of course, avoid the converse error, that of being deluded into thinking his/her beliefs have been completely suspended and that his/her analysis is transcendentally 'free'. (p. 65)

Miller, therefore, suggests that Western readers of African literature must use whatever information they can find from anthropology, history, comparative religion, etc., to attempt to see texts from local perspectives rather than to view them exclusively from the traditional Western perspective. This approach does not involve a simple contextualizing of the literature, however, because those anthropology texts which readers use to become informed about local cultures may themselves be greatly influenced by the traditional Western perspective.

Postcolonial reading strategies, therefore, offer teachers and students a means of questioning ethical beliefs and of opposing Eurocentric biases in the discourses of their texts, in their class discussions, and in their interactions with the world outside the classroom. Thus, the argument throughout this thesis has been that students must learn repeatedly to construct, and deconstruct, the given and assumed representations of themselves and their worlds in order to relate to the multitude of moral and cultural differences which they encounter in their studies of multicultural texts. The postcolonial curriculum conception, by encouraging students to carry on these deconstructive analyses can hardly be said to lack an ethical dimension. Moral dilemmas are, in fact, one of the most common topics of discussion for students and teachers who employ postcolonial reading strategies. By critically examining how cultures are represented from dominant and subaltern perspectives students discover that moral principles are deployed as levers of power by both sides. It then becomes the task of students not only to weigh the relative merits of opposing representations of moral truths but to deconstruct how and why those representations have been constructed. This, of course, does not preclude them from taking a stand ethically on a pragmatic, if not transcendental ground.

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19. Future Research and Teaching Opportunities

If the preceding argument is accepted, that the postcolonial conception is an ethically valid project in which teachers and students gain their authority partly by learning when it is more appropriate to listen to, or to speak with, rather than to speak for the Other, and in which the attainment of multicultural literacy is the principal goal of postcolonial literary study, then, in the space which remains, I would like to turn now to a survey of future research projects which could follow logically from the work begun in this dissertation. There are a number of possibilities for further foundational and practical research projects which could be based upon the postcolonial conception of the multicultural literature curriculum. However, let me preface these remarks by observing that, particularly as deconstruction, feminism, and cultural studies continue to develop new features and reading strategies, postcolonial theory and its applications in university comparative and commonwealth literature courses will change accordingly. The postcolonial conception should not, therefore, be considered a static or closed theory but one which will continue to be transformed as modifications in related theories take place. Thus researchers and teachers who wish to make future improvements to the postcolonial conception of the high school multicultural literature curriculum should continue to read new works by established theorists such as Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, Arnold Krupat, Gerald Vizenor, Lisa Lowe, Rey Chow, Trinh Minh-ha and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as well as works by new theorists to be found in journals such as World Literature Today, Critical Inquiry, Cultural Critique and College Literature.

In Chapters 4 and 6 I discussed intercultural, computer-mediated, collaborative responses to Native and Japanese literature via e-mail. This is a relatively new area of reader-response research which postcolonial notions such as Arnold Krupat's ethnocriticism, Trinh Minh-ha's hyphenated selves, and Henry Giroux's border pedagogy can help to illuminate. Much more needs to be said, for instance, about the problems and potentials of intercultural collaborations using international computer networks such as Internet to enable students to share their impressions of various literatures and cultures with their partners from distant lands. Thus far I have observed the interactions among only two sets of students and discovered that the types of discourses produced in each case varied widely according to the needs and interests of the classes involved. Clearly, then, as future researchers examine different cultural groups' responses to literature, the problems, needs, and approaches of the teachers and students involved will vary according to their cultural backgrounds.

Besides these kinds of computer-mediated, intercultural collaborations, there are, of course, a number of other important recent developments in computer technology which need to be explored by researchers and teachers who are interested in facilitating the development of high school students' multicultural literacy. George Landow (1992), for example, has discovered in hypertext computer software a very important aid for enabling students to experience multicultural intertextuality through computer-mediated literary research. In the following passage Landow describes his approach to teaching the works of Wole Soyinka in the introductory English survey course at Brown University:

One has to provide materials on colonial and postcolonial African history, politics, economics, geography, and religion. Since Soyinka combines English literary forms with Yoruban myth, one must provide information about that body of thought and encourage students to link it to Western and non-Western religions. (Landow, 1992, p. 159)

Thus, as the students read one of Soyinka's texts using a hypertext computer program, they can branch off into readings of related information whenever the author makes allusions to cultural contexts which are new to the student. Although, at the present time, the process of developing hypertextual learning materials for high school students seems rather a remote possibility, it is still a promising model for providing interdisciplinary and collaborative team teaching opportunities among high school teachers.

While the main focus of this thesis was upon how to teach students to read novels, short stories, and poetry, there is a need to consider as well how postcolonial theories of representation can affect the teaching of media literacy. In media literacy courses we need to move beyond the analysis of stereotypes in films, magazines, television shows, and music videos, to consider the wider range of issues about cultural imperialism and representations of the Other which postcolonial theory raises. I have discussed briefly how postcolonial theorists such as Rushdie and Mukherjee have deconstructed representations of Indians in David Lean's film version of A Passage to India and how Lowe and Chow have responded to Peter Wang's film, A Great Wall. But there are also many other examples of interpretations of films about India and China from which to choose if teachers and researchers are looking for models of such postcolonial film interpretations to provide for their students. With the wide range of films that are now available on videotape such as Peter Brook's version of the ancient India epic, The Mahabharata, Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, Thomas King's Medicine River, and Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, there is no lack of opportunity for teachers to help their media students to analyze film's both by Eurocentric directors and by postcolonial film-makers. Nor is there any lack of critical material for teachers who wish to provide models for their students' deconstructions of orientalism and racism in these films. Gautam Dasgupta's article, "Peter Brook's 'Orientalism'" (1991), for example, enables students and teachers to see some of the complexities of Brook's attempt to capture the sacred Hindu text in a nine-hour-long film:

What is indisputably true is that such stagings [need to] address, implicitly and explicitly, a deeply ingrained structure of ritual beliefs and ethical codes of conduct intrinsic to its audience. The Mahabharata is nothing, an empty shell, if it is read merely as a compendium of martial legends, of revenge, valour and bravura. (Dasgupta, 1991, p. 264)

Media students viewing portions of Brook's film, therefore, could be encouraged to compare scenes from the movie with excerpts from the original text of The Mahabharata (translated into English) in order to see how the intercultural blending of actors and acting styles which Brook's adopts in his film changes the students' understanding of the cultural contents of the tale. If media literacy is also to involve multicultural literacy, then teachers and researchers in the future will need to help students to become sensitized to the intercultural conflicts and orientalism which are affecting their perceptions of the cultures which they encounter in films.

As I argued throughout this thesis, postcolonial theory is not only interested in explaining to North American high school students how to interpret contemporary multicultural texts written by Chinese, Japanese, or African writers, but it is also concerned with helping them to deconstruct traditional and contemporary white, mainstream literature written by a William Somerset Maugham or a Joseph Conrad at the beginning of this century or by a Paul Theroux or a Mark Saltzman at the end of it. Much more needs to be done in the high school English curriculum about deconstructing mainstream literature from a postcolonial perspective. Thus a work such as Jane Eyre could be supplemented with Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, a Kill postcolonial version of Bronte's tale. Works such as Huckleberry Finn, To a Mockingbird, and The Tempest could be reconsidered using postcolonial deconstructive reading strategies. Instead of being concerned only with how people of colour are portrayed in these texts, however, the challenge ahead is to provide students with opportunities to investigate how "whiteness" is represented in them as well. As bell hooks points out in her article, "Representing Whiteness in the Black Imagination" (1992), "it is useful when theorizing black experience to examine the way the concept of 'terror' is linked to representations of whiteness." She learned, for instance, as an African American child that it "was important to recognize the power of whiteness, even to fear it, and to avoid encountering it" (p. 344). Further research needs to be done into applying such methods of decoding the dominant culture's hidden signs of difference so that students and teachers of multicultural literature can learn to focus not only upon how the victims of imperialism have been encoded in texts but also how their oppressors have been represented.

Although I concur with many others such as Simonson & Walker (1988), Aiex (1989), and Duff & Tongchinsub (1990) that the high school canon needs to be radically changed to suit the multicultural students who are reading these texts, I am not suggesting that one new canon be constructed to replace the old, nor am I advocating the removal of all "classics" from the classroom, but, instead, I believe that teachers in specific locations need to assess the needs of their students, and then, after teaching various books, they need to share their findings with colleagues so as to develop curricula appropriate to their local populations. For example, when Sheryl Little was recently asking other members of the "Native Conference" on the Ontario Electronic Village Bulletin Board System what texts they thought she should teach in her new Native Literature course for grade 11 students in a mixed Native and non-Native school, she mentioned that she thought the rough language and homosexuality in Tomson Highway's The Rez Sisters would not be well received by the students and parents in her community. Another member of the conference, however, mentioned that her senior students found the play's language not to be objectionable but to be necessary for the development of the themes which Highway was addressing.

Closely connected to the problems of reconstructing the high school literary canon, are the difficulties teachers face when they attempt to decide which anthologies, if any, they wish to use in their multicultural literature courses. If teachers are to know how to select multicultural literature works for their curricula, then current anthologies need to be assessed in order to determine their suitability for classroom use. At the same time we need to explore how to stock high school libraries, train library personnel, and supply library computer databases such as those available on the Internet to enable students of multicultural literature to carry out their independent research by supplementing their texts with others from the school's resource center.

While I have been focussing here upon students' written responses to literature, it is also possible in high school courses such as written composition, history, geography, and sociology for students to employ postcolonial deconstructive reading and writing strategies. For example, deconstruction in university composition courses is now becoming popular (Atkins & Johnson, 1985; Barker & Kemp, 1990; Crowley, 1989; Donahue & Quandahl, 1989), but it has yet to be implemented by many high school teachers of composition. Much more research, therefore, is necessary in how to teach students to play deconstructively with notions such as voice (Leggo, 1989) and invention (Harms, 1991) in their writing. High school history teachers need to introduce their students to the deconstructive reading strategies of new historicism which have begun to change how historians at the university level interpret texts. And opportunities exist to carry out integrated studies units among English, history, geography, and sociology courses, if teachers wish to examine the ways in which the discourses of nationhood and cultural difference are presently being deconstructed in university Cultural Studies courses (Bhabha, 1990).

While research, therefore, needs to be done concerning the application of postcolonial reading and writing strategies across high school humanities and social sciences curricula, practical applications of the postcolonial theory of representation could also add an important dimension to the teaching of high school drama courses. If, for instance, scenes from Tomson Highway's The Rez Sisters (1988) or Frank Chin's Chickencoop Chinaman (1991) were to be performed by drama students, they could be encouraged to use postcolonial reading strategies to analyse how their characters have been represented and to determine how they wish to interpret and perform their roles. The students' postcolonial interpretations would move beyond the usual attempts to understand a character's motivations to include, instead, deconstructions of the multiple discourses which a given character speaks both verbally and physically. How the students say their lines and react to their fellow actors' lines will not be a function of their ability to imitate the Native or Chinese people represented in their texts, but it will rather depend upon how thoroughly the students have grasped the complexities of the discourse patterns in their texts. Grappling with the complexities of the heterogeneous speech patterns uttered by their characters could prove a powerful new method both for enabling students to play with the dramatic interpretation and performance of colonial and postcolonial discourses, and for helping them to understand how, at the level of speech acts, individual subjects both control and are controlled by the effects of imperialism.

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20. Recommendations for School Boards

a) Curriculum planners and teachers need to be given opportunities to revise their English curricula and teaching practices so that high school students can develop multicultural literacy. Teachers and planners need time to learn how to encourage students to read texts by writers from cultures other than their own. They also need to understand how to help adolescent readers to question their own assumptions about essential cultural differences by comparing the texts of Eurocentric and postcolonial writers. Multicultural literacy involves interpreting how and why conflicting discourses interact in texts. School boards should therefore help their educators to provide students with the critical thinking skills they need in order to construct, through a range of reading and writing activities, their personal cultural identities and to deconstruct stereotypical representations of the cultural groups which they encounter in a variety of texts and media.

b) High school English students also need opportunities to experience their world through the eyes of the Other. This means developing their skills at intercultural communication and at collaborative response to literature with the help of students whose cultural background differs from their own. Such activities often naturally lead students to deconstruct the binary oppositions of cultural insider/outsider and of self/Other, as they discover that they share much in common with their fellow students regardless of the cultural borders which appear to separate them from one another. Although the multicultural mix of students in some high schools enables teachers to arrange intercultural communication among students within their own classrooms, recent developments in computer telecommunications have made it possible to connect Saskatchewan students via the Internet with fellow students around the world. As I write this sentence in May of 1995, the Texas Educational Network (TENET) is predicting that by the year 2000 every school in the United States will be connected to the Internet. I believe that Canada may well be in a similar position by then. At the present time, for instance, twelve high schools in Winnipeg each have their own home page on the Internet's World Wide Web. Students from these high schools can, therefore, discuss the recent tragic earthquake in Kobe, Japan, by using Netscape software to view pictures of the destruction and to connect with students in Akatsukayama High School, or they can read messages posted via e-mail by more than 3,000 students in 81 countries to the United Nations' Internet Voices of Youth Forum about children's rights and poverty. A great many students around the globe are already learning how to traverse cultural borders via the Internet. It is time for Saskatchewan students to become a part of this exciting new adventure in reading between worlds.

c) While it has always been important for curriculum planners and teachers of high school English courses to be aware of the literary theories which inform their teaching practices, recent developments in theory have been taking place rapidly at a time when many educators have been too busy simply surviving in their classrooms to become informed about the latest developments. Nevertheless, if the teaching of multicultural literature is to be done in manner which problematizes the Eurocentric biases that are a part of traditional approaches to the teaching of English, then I recommend that postcolonial reading strategies be added to the repertoire of approaches for high school teachers in this province. I have already begun to introduce some of these strategies to preservice teachers at the University of Regina's Faculty of Education. I strongly believe, however, that opportunities should be made available, as well, for established teachers across the province to encounter these new theories which have already significantly changed the way students read literature in many university courses in Canada, Britain, Australia, and the United States.

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21. Conclusion

I attempted in this dissertation to develop a postcolonial conception of the multicultural literature curriculum which would provide teachers who are using New Critical, archetypal, feminist, reader-response, and antiracist pedagogical strategies with opportunities both to reconsider the theoretical assumptions behind their present teaching practices and to show them what I believe to be an important new method of thinking about the teaching of multicultural texts. By comparing the postcolonial approach with these other conceptions my goal was not to reject the useful features of the curricula commonly in use in high school English courses throughout Canada and the United States. On the contrary, by devoting considerable space to a review of a variety of interesting teaching strategies which educators such as Grant (1986) and Borovilos (1990) have derived from traditional literary theories, it has been my intention to show that each of these conceptual frameworks can be first critiqued and then modified to provide students and teachers with more interesting ways of responding to their multicultural texts. But where each of the existing conceptions has the potential to perpetuate Eurocentric imperialist interpretations of cultures, the postcolonial conception should prove a useful tool for those who wish to recognize some of the complexities which are built into representations of people and places as a result of the fascinating relationship that has existed for centuries between culture and imperialism.

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