We Are the Country: Rethinking Race, Nation, and Multiculturalism in Canada through Joy Kogawa’s Obasan


Lee, Yoo-Hyeok

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This paper revisits some aspects of Joy Kogawa’s Obasan to discuss the cultural politics of race, nation, and multiculturalism in Canada in the context of post 9/11. Her literary representation of Japanese Canadians’ interment experiences during WWII reveals the silenced and forgotten history of racial discrimination that emerged in the form of racism masquerading as nationalism in Canadian history. Notably, Kogawa tries to do so in close relation to her own contemporary racial discrimination minorities including Japanese Canadians confront on a daily basis after WWII until she publishes her novel in 1981. Furthermore, this paper rethinks race, nation, and multiculturalism in Canada through Kogawa’s Obasan, in close relation to the cultural politics of post 9/11. It is because the cultural and political topography of racial politics in post 9/11 era in Canada can also be characterized as the return of racism masquerading as nationalism. By analyzing these two similar forms of racism, this paper questions the official, mainstream discourse of Canadian multiculturalism and argues that the ideal of what Cecil Foster calls “genuine multiculturalism,” the ideal that “all citizens are genuinely equal and share the same rights and privileges,” is often cherished and pursued by those on the margin.


I. Introduction: On the Margin
II. Rethinking Race, Nation, and Multiculturalism in Canada after 9/11
III. We Are the Country: Japanese Canadians’ Lament for a Nation
IV. Conclusion: Thinking Beyond What’s Dominant and Normative
Works Cited


  • Lee, Yoo-Hyeok Pusan National University


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