Performing Postracialism: Reflections on Antiblackness, Nation, and Education through Contemporary Blackface in Canada
Published: February 2023© 2023
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 264 Pages
Dimensions: 6.00 x 9.00
Blackface – instances in which non-Black persons temporarily darken their skin with make-up to impersonate Black people, usually for fun, and frequently in educational contexts – constitutes a postracialist pedagogy that propagates antiblack logics.
In Performing Postracialism, Philip S.S. Howard examines instances of contemporary blackface in Canada and argues that it is more than a simple matter of racial (mis)representation. The book looks at the ostensible humour and dominant conversations around blackface, arguing that they are manifestations of the particular formations of antiblackness in the Canadian nation state and its educational institutions. It posits that the occurrence of blackface in universities is not incidental, and outlines how educational institutions’ responses to blackface in Canada rely upon a motivation to protect whiteness.
Performing Postracialism draws from focus groups and individual interviews conducted with university students, faculty, administrators, and Black student associations, along with online articles about blackface, to provide the basis for a nuanced examination of the ways that blackface is experienced by Black persons. The book investigates the work done by Black students, faculty, and staff at universities to challenge blackface and the broader campus climate of antiblackness that generates it.
Introduction: Genesis and Intentions
Part I: Blackface in the Context of the Canadian Settler-Colonial Nation State
1. Contemporary Blackface in Canada as Performance of Antiblackness
2. What’s the Joke?: The Black Body as White Pleasure in Canadian Blackface
3. Defending Blackface: Performing the “Progressive,” Postracialist Canadian
4. Pornotroping Performances: Overt Violence, Un/Gendering, and Sex in Contemporary Blackface
Part II: Blackface in Education Contexts in Canada
5. Blackface at University: The Antiblack Logics of Canadian Academia
6. “Making Them Better Leaders”: The Pedagogical Imperative, Institutional Priorities, and the Attenuation of Black Anger
7. Learning to Get Along at School, or Antiblack Postracialism through Multicultural Education
8. The Costs of Belonging for International Students
9. Fugitive Learning: Countering Postracialism and Making Black Life at University
"Against the mirage of Canada as a postracialist promised land, Philip S.S. Howard provides an exhaustive mediation on blackface incidents in Canadian universities and beyond as indicative of the manifold afterlives of slavery that we all inhabit. Both path-breaking and original, Performing Postracialism is a trenchantly timely book."Alexander Ghedi Weheliye, Professor of African American Studies, Northwestern University
"The sticky persistence of race and racism comes under significant scrutiny in Performing Postracialism. Taking the practice of blackface as its starting point, Howard powerfully demonstrates how ideas about Black people and Blackness embedded in blackface not only shapes Black peoples’ lives, but also structures practices and institutional forms of dominance in Canada and beyond. This work is a major reminder that blackface remains not only present with us, but that it underwrites our current encounters, especially so in educational contexts which are among the most potent for fashioning futures for continued injustice and potential justice. Performing Postracialism is a necessary and urgent account of the persistence of raciological thinking as a founding technology of Canadian-ness."Rinaldo Walcott, author of The Long Emancipation: Moving Toward Black Freedom