University of Toronto Press Blog

  • Where is the Nearest Starbucks, or, Globalization, Technology and Frontier Migration?


    The global(izing) city contains several cultural time zones which are familiar to frontier migrants

    Photo by DuBoix at Morguefile.com

    Written by guest blogger Melissa Tandiwe Myambo

    One early morning in New Delhi, a young American woman who had recently migrated to India said to me, “Thank God for Google Maps!...[My move to India] wouldn’t have been possible…[without] all these stores…Zara is here, Starbucks is here…”

    Although India’s capital is a notoriously tough city for Westerners to live in - the pollution, immense income disparities, the everyday struggle to negotiate with vendors and autorickshaw-wallahs and so on – this woman, whose parents had left India before she was subsequently born and raised in the USA, described her migration as being made possible by globalization.

    The migration experience for migrants, refugees and even tourists has been totally transformed by technology (Google Maps, Uber, email, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook, YouTube, and so on). My research on migration and globalization finds that technology makes it easier for those far away from their home country to feel closer to those left behind because communication technologies enable convenient and free communication with no time lag. But technology also makes them feel more at home in their new country.

    The plethora of GPS navigation apps makes it easier to find one’s way in a new city. And the fact that the same apps are available in several countries means that the new migrant just has to flip on her smartphone and continue where she left off in her home country. Dating on Tinder or watching Netflix or shopping on Amazon or similar online retailers is now possible in scores of countries worldwide. Because of technology and globalization, crossing a national border into a new country does not necessarily mean a disruption in lifestyle. However, my research also finds that migrants from “developed” countries like Japan and South Korea and those in the UK, EU and North America have a significant advantage over other types of migrants when it comes to “finding home” in a new country.

    “First World” Dominance

    “Developed” or “First World” countries tend to dominate the process we call globalization and that means that migrants from these countries can find their home media, goods, food, apps, architecture, urban design and microspaces I call Cultural Time Zones (cafes, gyms, stores and so on) almost everywhere. For example, the top three most watched TV shows in the world are all American: The Big Bang Theory, Game of Thrones and then Grey’s Anatomy. These are “global” hits but often, when we use the word “global,” it refers to something that comes from a “developed” economy.

    Often, during the course of my research on frontier migration – the move of people, capital, ideas and technology from a more “developed” economy to a “developing” one - migrants mention the foods that they miss most from their home countries. However, with the intensification of globalization in the 21st century, frontier migrants, more often than not, are able to find much of their traditional cuisine in their new countries.

    “Global” Food

    Starbucks, the well-known chain of coffee stores, operates in about 40% of the world’s nations. McDonald’s, the iconic hamburger chain, operates in over half the world’s countries. Coca-Cola is drunk in practically every country in the world. All these companies come from the USA.

    The top ten companies that control the world’s food supply such as Associated British Foods (ABF) and Switzerland’s Nestlé have a common geographical origin. They are all American or European. For frontier migrants from the US, the UK and the EU, this means that they often encounter familiar brands and foodstuffs on their travels far from home. Frontier migrants from Japan and South Korea do not find as much of their home food although sushi is becoming increasingly popular globally but they do find other things that remind them of home.

    “Global” Brands

    Japanese and South Korean cars, televisions and phones dominate the market in many corners of the globe. Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai which also owns Kia are some of the world’s most popular cars. South Korean company, Samsung, has some of the most popular smartphones in the world and Sony electronics are a dominant Japanese brand in several countries.

    Other “developed” countries’ automobiles and smartphones are also ubiquitous in many economies. German cars like the Mercedes-Benz and BMW dominate luxury sales along with British Aston Martins and Rolls Royces. No discussion of the smartphone is complete without mentioning US company Apple’s classic iPhone but beyond food, vehicles and electronics, frontier migrants find the urban landscape of many of the world’s globalizing cities like Shanghai, New Delhi, Johannesburg, Moscow, and São Paulo deeply reminiscent of what they left behind.

    “Global” Cultural Time Zones

    Gleaming skyscrapers that are part of an impressive vertical skyline are increasingly part of a city’s claim to global status. Skyscrapers are an architectural form that was born in the USA in the second half of the 19th-century and now they are built in every country. For frontier migrants, this is just one example of the multiple “global” cultural time zones (CTZs) they will find in the globalizing urbanscape of their new cities of residence.

    Western-style CTZs like the American Starbucks and the British chain Costa offer the same lattes and snack foods everywhere. Fast food American restaurant chains like McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Subway are often present in middle-class neighbourhoods in globalizing cities offering familiar fare. When it comes to exercising, Planet Fitness, Gold’s Gym, and Fitness First are some of the “global gyms” founded in the West but now operating in numerous countries. If a frontier migrant should want to buy new clothes, he will again encounter more familiar brands in any of the American-style malls which are increasingly popular in developing countries.

    According to McKinsey’s Global Fashion Index, 97% of the world’s retail sector profit is dominated by ten European and American companies including well-known brands like Zara, H&M and Nike. After buying new clothes, the frontier migrant may want to show them off in a hipster bar, another US export to the world.

    Or, he can just snap some pics on his phone to post on his social media feeds so that his friends and family in both his home country and his new one can offer their opinion.

    Either way, globalization and technology have completely transformed the migrant experience, especially for frontier migrants from “developed” countries which already dominate globalizing processes.

    Photo of Melissa Tandiwe Myambo

    Melissa Tandiwe Myambo is a research associate at the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa at the University of the Witwatersrand and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Wits City Institute. She was a 2017 Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study Writing Fellow and the recipient of a Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award to conduct research in India in 2016, where she was affiliated with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi. Myambo has a PhD in comparative literature from New York University, and when the weather is warm, she lives in Brooklyn, New York. Links to her other writings can be found on her website. Her current research focuses on globalization, migration, and “hipsterification” (hipster-led gentrification).

    Her latest article in Diaspora entitled “Bloody Diaspora Theory for the Twenty-First Century: African and Asian Heritage Migrants Return” is free to read for a limited time here.

  • Diagnosis: Truths and Tales Book Giveaway

    CONTEST ALERT! Annemarie Goldstein Jutel's new book has been getting a lot of buzz since its recent release, and we thought you'd want to see what it's all about.

    Diagnosis: Truths and Tales shares stories told from the perspectives of those who receive diagnoses and those who deliver them. Confronting how we address illness in our personal lives and in popular culture, Jutel's book explores narratives of diagnosis while pondering the impact they have on how we experience health and disease.

    Want a copy for yourself? From July 2-7, follow us on Instagram, like our post announcing the book giveaway, and tag a friend. You'll be entered in a draw to win a FREE copy of Diagnosis: Truths and Tales!


    Terms and Conditions

    Open to residents of Canada (excluding the Province of Quebec)

    1. CONTEST PERIOD: The 2019 University of Toronto Press Instagram contest commences at 12:00 PM Eastern Time (“ET”) on July 2, 2019, and will end at July 7, 2019 (the “Contest Period”). All times are Eastern Times.
    2. RULES: By entering this Contest, entrants agree to abide by these Contest rules and regulations (the “Official Rules”). The decisions of the independent contest organization with respect to all aspects of the Contest are final. These rules are posted at https://utorontopress.com/ca/blog/2019/07/02/diagnosis-truths-and-tales-book-giveaway/.
    3. ELIGIBILITY: To enter the win the Contest and be eligible to win a Prize (see rule 6), a person (“Entrant”) must, at the time of entry, be a legal resident of Canada (excluding the Province of Quebec) who has reached the age of majority in his/her province or territory of residence. The following individuals and members of such person’s immediate family (including mother, father, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, partner or spouse regardless of where they live) or persons with whom they are domiciled (whether related to the person or not) are not eligible to enter the Contest: employees, officers, directors, shareholders, owners, general and limited partners, agents, representatives, successors.
    4. HOW TO ENTER: During the Contest period, follow @utpress on Instagram, like the post that pertains to the Contest, and tag a friend. Limit one (1) entry per person per day during the contest Period regardless of method of entry. Any person who is found to have entered in a fashion not sanctioned by these Official Rules will be disqualified.
    5. PRIZE: The winner will receive one (1) print copy of Diagnosis: Truths and Tales.
    6. DRAW:
    7. The random draw will include all eligible entries, and will take place on July 8, 2019 at 12:00 PM at the University of Toronto Press offices, located at 800 Bay St. Mezzanine, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3A9.
    8. The winner will be contacted via social media, and will be included in the announcement on Instagram. If a selected Entrant cannot be reached via social media within 7 days of the draw, then he/she will be disqualified and another Entrant will be randomly selected until such time as contact is made via social media with a selected Entrant that satisfies the foregoing requirements or there are no more eligible entries, whichever comes first. University of Toronto Press will not be responsible for failed attempts to contact a selected Entrant.
    9. CONDITIONS OF ENTRY: By entering the Contest, Entrants (i) confirm compliance with these Official Rules including all eligibility requirements, and (ii) agree to be bound by these Official Rules and by the decisions of University of Toronto Press, made in its sole discretion, which shall be final and binding in all matters relating to this Contest. Entrants who have not complied with these Official Rules are subject to disqualification.
    10. CONSENT TO USE PERSONAL INFORMATION: University of Toronto Press respects your right to privacy. The information you provided will only be used for the purpose of administering this Contest and prize fulfillment. For more information regarding University of Toronto Press’s privacy statement, please visit https://utorontopress.com/ca/privacy-policy.

     

  • Culture, Identity, Community: An Excerpt on the Origins of Canada Day

    Whether you’re relaxing on a dock, sharing beer and barbecue with friends and family, or waiting for the familiar crack of the fireworks at your closest city centre, this long weekend is all about celebrating Canada! And what better way to nod to the anniversary of Confederation than by learning how Canada Day came to be? We’re sharing an essay from Matthew Hayday's and Raymond Blake’s collection Celebrating Canada: Holidays, National Days, and the Crafting of Identities and, as Hayday points out, the process of establishing an annual celebratory tradition on July 1st was far from straightforward...

    So turn up the "Patio Lanterns" and kick off your weekend festivities with some background on one of our favourite holidays. Learn more in “Canada’s Day: Inventing a Tradition, Defining a Culture.” Have a safe and happy long weekend!


    Excerpt from Celebrating Canada: Holidays, National Days, and the Crafting of Identities.

    Chapter 11: Canada's Day: Inventing a Tradition, Defining a Culture

    On 1 July 1977, ten million Canadians watched on television as gold lame–clad Acadian disco diva Patsy Gallant crooned “Besoin d’amour” from a stage on Parliament Hill. Two years later, Gallant sang her hit “Sugar Daddy” to recently elected Prime Minister Joe Clark before a crowd of tens of thousands of live spectators on Parliament Hill and an audience of millions on television. Many Canadians wondered, and several inquired of their government, what exactly Gallant’s performance had to do with the founding of Canada. Some opined that her act was better suited to a nightclub than to an event commemorating Confederation.

    The manner in which the anniversary of Confederation – 1 July 1867 – has been celebrated in an official capacity has varied widely over the years. Parliament Hill has hosted acts as disparate as Ukrainian Shumka dancers, world-renowned jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, a ballet pas-de-deux, the Calgary Safety Patrol Jamboree, and pop stars from René Simard to Anne Murray. In more recent years, the official celebrations have featured Canadian pop, country, and indie musical stars, including Metric, Carly Rae Jepsen, Marianas Trench, Marie-Mai, and Serena Ryder. The format of the official celebrations has ranged from displays of military pageantry to ethnic folk festivals to variety shows featuring big-name stars. In some years, the government sponsored extravaganzas on Parliament Hill that were televised across the nation. In others, the Ottawa celebrations were downsized and downplayed in favour of funding community-based celebrations. Yet amid this diversity of form and content, what perhaps is most surprising is the fact that, prior to 1958, the federal government had organized only two celebrations of the anniversary of Canada’s founding – in 1917 and 1927, the fiftieth and sixtieth anniversaries of Confederation. Apart from these major events, July 1st passed practically unobserved at the national level. As the chapters in this volume by Forrest Pass, Gillian Leitch, Lianbi Zhu, and Timothy Baycroft demonstrate, there were a number of different ways that Dominion Day was observed in various communities across Canada in the decades following Confederation, but the federal government was absent from these events as either an organizer or funder.

    Government-sponsored annual celebrations of July 1st were instituted when Canada was passing through a period of national re-examination. By the mid-1950s, many Canadians no longer took for granted that Canada had a well-defined national culture, primarily rooted in British traditions. Changing immigration patterns and increased discontent from francophone Quebec led to a questioning of Canadian identity. A declining British Empire and changing trade relations prompted some to call for a rethinking of Canada’s role in international affairs and of its relations with the United States. In its 1951 report, the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences (the Massey Commission) called on the federal government to assume a role in the promotion of Canadian culture. Many wondered what Canadian culture and identity would look like by the 1967 centennial.

    While a host of different ethno-cultural groups, artists, authors, and lobbyists advanced various prescriptions for how Canadian identity and culture would and should develop, the federal government was also seeking to exert some direction over an “official” Canadian culture that it would sanction and support through various programs and policies. The celebrations that it sponsored for July 1st are a fascinating case study of the type of national identity and culture that it wanted to support. As the following discussion will demonstrate, these celebrations varied substantially from year to year, as different government ministers, bureaucrats, and interest groups tried to shape a tradition of national, state-sponsored celebrations of Canadian identity and culture. This was a highly contested process, which extended not only to the content of these state-sponsored celebrations, but also to their structure and form. An examination of the celebrations of what was variously termed Dominion Day, Canada Week, Canada’s Birthday, and ultimately Canada Day provides a crucial window into the federal government’s emergent cultural policy and how it was wedded to the broader political objectives of the day. These objectives and policies shifted substantially from when these celebrations were initially instituted in 1958 to the forms that they would assume by the late-1980s and beyond. These shifts were shaped by four major forces: changing conceptions of the meaning of the Canadian nation and the place of individuals and communities within it; divergent opinions of what elements of Canadian culture should be included in official celebrations; political and economic factors that defined the desirable formats of the festivities; and an evolving conception of what role the mass media could and should play in fostering mass participation in these events.

    Imagined Communities and Invented Traditions: A Bit of Theory

    Canada was led by six prime ministers between 1958, when official federally sponsored Dominion Day celebrations were launched, and the early 1990s, by which point a standard structure for Canada Day celebrations had been settled upon. Each prime minister had different ideas about the direction of the country, and each government approached the celebration of July 1st with a clear aim of fostering a sense of national community by inventing a nation-wide tradition. In this respect, these governments were engaging in processes of creating linkages between Canadians and crafting the ideology and identity of the Canadian “imagined community,” to use political scientist Benedict Anderson’s useful concept. Anderson explored the processes by which individuals came to think of themselves as members of communities, and ultimately nations, even though they lived great distances from each other and would likely never meet most of their fellow citizens in person – a geographic challenge that is particularly significant in a state as vast as Canada. Anderson argued that a number of different elements fostered a sense of commonality among members of national communities. The development of a national mass media through print capitalism was crucial to this process. Anderson posited that a diverse group of people reading a given newspaper, for example, albeit in different locations, would feel a sense of community because all these individuals were reading the same news, at the same time, about the same people whom the publishers had decided were important for their readership to learn about. This was a way of creating a sense of shared national experience for people who did not necessarily live in immediate proximity to each other. As will become clear, organizers of Canadian celebrations sought to create similar shared experiences for citizens, whether in person or mediated by television, on their national day. This project relates to the argument of Maurice Charland, writing in a Canadian context, about how Canadian governments have attempted to deploy a form of “technological nationalism,” first by building railways and transportation networks, and then by constructing radio and television communication systems to bind together a geographically vast country through a web of shared telecommunications.

    Historians Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger’s concept of “invente traditions” is also directly pertinent to this analysis. Hobsbawm, Ranger, and their colleagues were among the first to seriously investigate the development of rituals and how they were tied into nation-building projects. Specifically, they argued that many so-called rituals and national traditions were in fact relatively recent inventions. These traditions – anthems, folk activities, and the like – were assumed to have ancient historic roots, yet many were in fact invented by governments and elites to provide cultural reinforcement for relatively new national political boundaries. Although Canada’s political boundaries were more or less well established by the 1950s, the nation’s identity and culture were clearly in flux, and the state took an active interest in shaping the direction in which they would evolve. As Stuart Ward discusses in chapter 13 in this volume, such a phenomenon was common to many settler countries throughout the British Commonwealth, and they engaged in similar processes of state-directed efforts to craft new or modified national identities using commemorative and celebratory events.

    The case of the celebration of July 1st appears to fit well into these theoretical models of nation building. In June 1868, Governor General Monck called for a celebration of the anniversary of the formation of the Dominion of Canada and “enjoin[ed] and call[ed] upon all Her Majesty’s loving subjects throughout Canada to join in the due and proper celebration of the said Anniversary on the said FIRST day of JULY next.” There was uncertainty, however, as to whether this proclamation meant that 1 July was a legal holiday. A bill put forth the following year by Thomas McConkey, Liberal member of Parliament for Simcoe North, to make Dominion Day a legal holiday ran into stiff opposition from both Liberal and Conservative MPs, largely because of lingering hostile feelings towards Confederation from Nova Scotia. Indeed, William Chipman, an anti-Confederate-turned-Liberal MP from that province, argued that it would be a “day of lamentation” and further evidence of the powerlessness of Nova Scotians should the bill succeed. McConkey opted to withdraw the bill after second reading.

    It would be a further decade before a Senate bill introduced by Dr Robert Carrall of British Columbia led to Dominion Day being officially made a public holiday in 1879. In the Senate debates on the Dominion Day bill, it became clear that July 1st was being observed as a de facto holiday in Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia, but not necessarily in the other four provinces. Moreover, representatives from Nova Scotia noted the lingering bad blood over Confederation in their province, while Conservative Senator Clement Cornwall of British Columbia objected to the bill because the Terms of Union of that province’s admission to Confederation were as yet unfulfilled. The bill was, however, adopted by the Senate and swiftly passed through the House of Commons that year.

    Although Dominion Day was legally a public holiday from 1879 onwards, very little was done by the federal government to officially observe the day over the first ninety years following Confederation. The fiftieth anniversary celebrations in 1917 were largely overshadowed by the First World War. The only major anniversary celebration was the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation in 1927, an event that included a national radio broadcast from Parliament Hill. Robert Cupido has considered how the radio broadcast might have reached many Canadians with the means to afford radio receivers, but contends that many others would have been excluded from these celebrations because of a lack of access to this technology. Jane Nicholas has considered how the Diamond Jubilee celebrations served to reinforce particular conceptions of gender, shoring up a bourgeois masculinity threatened by the modern era. As Robert Talbot points out, the Mackenzie King government saw the Diamond Jubilee as an opportunity to advance a bicultural conception of Canada through the festivities.

    Apart from the jubilee, Dominion Day was primarily observed as a day off work, when Canadians would head to their cottages, host a barbecue, attend a sporting event, or otherwise enjoy the beginning of summer. As is evident from Forrest Pass’s chapter, for example, many towns and cities organized community-based celebrations, but nothing was done at the national level to try to make July 1st a celebration of Canadian nationhood. As the chapters by Marcel Martel, Joel Belliveau, Brittney Anne Bos, and Allison Marie Ward demonstrate, Empire Day was the site of similar municipally organized parades and school-based activities, while Victoria Day, after it was adopted as a national holiday in 1901 (discussed in Chris Tait’s chapter), was an occasion for picnics, leisure, and fireworks displays. One should be careful not to assume that these and other holidays that lacked federal state ceremonial events and pageantry were devoid of importance or meaning. The fact that they were holidays was itself of significance to Canadians, and indeed labour movement leaders could attest to the complicated nature of how individuals responded to holidays. While union organizers wanted workers to march in parades and attend formal picnics on Labour Day, many were happy to have the day off for rest and relaxation with family and friends.

    From 1958 onwards, each federal government attempted to develop or modify the tradition of celebrating July 1st. The manner in which this process unfolded was shaped by different conceptions of what sort of culture Canada should (or did) have, the extent to which organizers wanted to explicitly tie cultural celebrations to national unity, and varying conceptions of what form of celebration would best foster a sense of a common Canadian culture. In the first thirty years of these celebrations, various models were tested to foster new traditions. Yet, inconsistencies in approach and content appear to have delayed the implantation of a tradition of celebrating July 1st as a national holiday.

    Part of the delay in settling on a format for these celebrations and determining their content can be accounted for by the heated debates about Canadian identity that were ongoing in the immediate postwar period. Such debates have been the subject of an important and growing body of scholarship. As authors in a series of volumes edited by Phillip Buckner and R. Douglas Francis have observed, these were decades in which Canada was rethinking its relationship to the British world. It was also a period in which Canadians simultaneously embraced economic, defence, and cultural ties to the United States while also worrying that Canada would lose its distinctive identity. It was these fears, in part, that prompted the creation of the Massey Commission in 1949. This commission recommended steps to bolster Canadian culture, but its vision was clearly rooted in “high culture” institutions such as literature, dance, theatre, and universities – all elements that were closely tied to Canada’s British heritage. The Massey approach largely ignored, when it was not overtly disdainful of, the more “popular” forms of culture from the United States, including radio, popular music, popular fiction, and the emergence of television. It would not be until the 1960s that the Canadian government began to try more actively to champion a “Canadian” popular culture. This ambivalence about “high” versus “popular” culture would play out in significant ways in how July 1st was celebrated.

    If Canada were to move away from its traditional, British-oriented cultural identity, there was active debate over what direction this move might take, to what extent it should occur, and whether all Canadians would embrace it. José Igartua and Bryan Palmer have both argued that, by the 1960s, the traditional model of Canadian identity had broken down. Palmer contends that no new culture had replaced it, while Igartua contends a bilingual, multicultural identity was emerging as its replacement. Chris Champion, on the other hand, sees a British influence even in the new symbols that were emerging, such as the new Maple Leaf flag, while Gary Miedema argues that public religion persisted in Canada’s public commemorations. Canada’s First Nations occupied an uncertain place in this evolving Canadian identity, although their presence and contributions were increasingly seen as important. How they were conceived as “fitting in” changed over time and fluctuated between assimilationist messages and ones that were more open to cultural preservation. Such challenges to traditional British cultural identity have been and continue to be present throughout post-Confederation history in both national and provincial celebrations, but a new discourse on multiculturalism was emerging, however tenuously, by the 1960s. That other ethno-cultural communities would seek to be included in a redefined Canadian identity is not surprising, given how extensively many ethnic communities had been excluded from full participation in Canadian society, as Lianbi Zhu and Timothy Baycroft’s chapter on Chinese-Canadian protest activity on Dominion Day shows. While many French-Canadian and Acadian minority communities welcomed this new openness, Québécois nationalists often failed to see themselves in these new models of Canada. Indeed, Marc-André Gagnon’s chapter clearly shows how Québécois leaders explicitly observed a celebration that was a rival to its English-Canadian counterpart. Also, as Eva Mackey points out, even if, by the time of Canada’s 125th birthday celebrations in 1992 the federal government were articulating a new model of a bilingual, multicultural Canada that showed increased openness to First Nations, there was still a mass of white, unmarked “Canadian-Canadians” who neither accepted this new identity nor saw themselves reflected in it. Even if many Canadians did accept this new national identity, some were more interested in how their local and regional identities were articulated and addressed. Certainly the process of defining, articulating, and promoting new conceptions of Canadian identity was hotly contested, which helps explain the tumultuous process of inventing a tradition of celebrating Canada’s national holiday, to which we now turn.

  • The Secret History of Pride

    Pride Month

    To celebrate Pride Month, we have developed a blog series with weekly posts, designed to allow UTP authors the opportunity to share with us what Pride means to them, and to discuss a whole manner of Pride-related topics.

    Our final contribution to our Pride Month series comes from Sex and the Weimar Republic author Laurie Marhoefer. Marhoefer shares what Pride means to her, explores the history of gay rights activism, and notes how Pride has changed over the past century.


    Pride, which in my neighborhood in Seattle rivals Christmas for importance (we already have our flags and signs out and the marches are two weeks away), came out of a historical event, the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969. Stonewall wasn’t the beginning of gay rights, however. Gay rights has a much longer history. A lot of it isn’t nearly as sexy as Pride (at its best) can be.

    The fight for legal equality for “homosexuals,” as they came to be called towards the end of the nineteenth century, seems to have begun in a Swiss alpine village in the 1830s, if it did not begin with the French Revolution.

    Well before the Second World War, many people around the world (and a majority of Germans, I’ll bet) knew that there were same-sex loving individuals who claimed to be members of a “sexual minority” (rather than debauched sinners, as the Christian worldview had it) and argued for the repeal of laws against same-sex sex. Very few people agreed with the homosexual emancipationist view of things. But some did, particularly the homosexuals themselves.

    The thing was, this movement for gay rights may not have made you want to wave the rainbow flag around. It was kind of conservative. My UTP book, Sex and the Weimar Republic: German Homosexual Emancipation and the Rise of the Nazis, explores that movement, led by Magnus Hirschfeld and others. Those activists fought Germany’s law against sodomy. But they did so by vilifying sex workers, creating an implicitly white gay subject, and buying into eugenics. By the 1920s there was a robust independent trans rights movement, too, and it was also invested in making trans people “respectable.”

    Before the late 1960s, for most gay activists the goal wasn’t to be out and proud. It was to get the police to stop arresting people for having consensual sex in private. People wanted to quietly live out their otherwise conventional lives. A giant parade of homosexuals and gender-benders would have horrified them.

    Pride is different. It is from the 1970s, not the 1830s or the 1920s. Some of Pride’s roots are in radical, antiracist, anti-imperialist left-of-center gay and trans activism. Though it hasn’t always lived up to those beginnings – for more on that, see what I wrote here – it sometimes does. The pro-sex fabulousness of Pride, and the in-your-face claim on public space that Pride makes, that’s from the 1970s, baby.

    That’s what Pride means to me. Gay rights isn’t always left-of-center. It never exists outside of another, broader political vision, and those visions can be pretty darn right-of-center. But Pride can be a better moment in queer and trans politics, a leftist, antiracist moment, one that echos a time when queer and trans people set out to transform the world into a more just one, not just to quietly fit in to an unjust world.


    Laurie Marhoefer is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Washington.

  • Spirit, Wit, and Forgeries: The Beautiful Untrue Afterlife of Oscar Wilde

    After ten years of detective work investigating Oscar Wilde forgeries, Beautiful Untrue Things author Gregory Mackie talks queer poets, roguish impostors, and the shifting reputation of everyone's favourite Victorian gay icon.


    Oscar Wilde is an instructive case study in how literary reputations can change drastically. When he died in 1900, in exile after his release from a prison sentence for the crime of “gross indecency” – the legal term for sex between men in Victorian Britain – he was a pariah. Over the course of the twentieth century, he has gone from being “unspeakable,” in the words of E.M. Forster’s novel Maurice (1913), to being the ultimate gay icon, revered as a saint and martyr. (If you don’t believe me there, check out his lipstick-kissed tomb in Paris’s Père Lachaise cemetery.) Wilde remains a haunting presence in literary history, which is why I frame my examination of multiple Wilde forgeries in terms of an “afterlife.” And indeed, in one chapter of Beautiful Untrue Things, I mean this idea quite literally: it explores what Wilde’s voluble spirit says about art and theatre from the great beyond, when channelled by zany 1920s spiritualist mediums. Without giving too many details away, I can say here that Wilde’s ghostly wit is characteristically devastating.

    I have been working on this book for over a decade now, and during that time the topic of my research – literary forgeries of Oscar Wilde – has intrigued nearly everyone I have told about it. That such curiosity has survived my nerdy bibliographical enthusiasms is, I think, a testament to the topic’s appeal, although whether more fascination attaches to Oscar Wilde or to forgery I can’t say. For me, the process of assembling, orchestrating, and analyzing the obscure publications, archival bits and pieces, and outrageous, long-neglected stories that make up the book has been wonderful. And I mean that in the word’s literal sense: researching and writing Beautiful Untrue Things has kept me in a sustained state of wonder, which for an academic is a rare treat. What do I mean by wonder? I mean learning things that few people currently alive likely know or remember; reading books that no one else has touched for a century; following up obscure leads to unexpected revelations (not to mention the occasional disappointment); and finally putting together the pieces of an intricate puzzle. In some ways, working on forgery means thinking like a detective – and, sometimes, even like a forger – as much as a traditional literary scholar.

    Following the leads of the mysterious and eccentric characters who populate the book – forgers that include the queer poet “Dorian Hope” and the roguish impostor Mrs. Chan-Toon – has meant that much of my sleuthing has been done in rare-books libraries. I visited archives, some of which have only recently been catalogued, across North America and Britain. Researching this book has also meant remaining attentive to information emanating from unexpected places. I continue to be amazed by the wealth of information about forgotten literary adventurers held by people working in the rare-book market, for instance. One of the most crucial sources for Beautiful Untrue Things is the private archive of a well-established London dealer – still in business today – contacted by “Dorian Hope” in 1921. These kinds of places represent a living repository of lore about book history and the book trade.

    Of course, my research methods have also had to keep up with the times. Early in this project, I travelled to the British Library’s offsite newspaper archive in North London in search of an otherwise unobtainable interview with Mrs. Chan-Toon. I spent a full day trying to access one small news article. That library is now closed, as widespread digitization of historical newspapers has transformed the work and expense of a transatlantic journey into a matter of a few well-chosen clicks in an online database. And yet online research has also saved me from momentous mistakes. One of the book’s signature contributions is the uncovering of the real identity of “Dorian Hope” in New York and Paris, thereby solving a mystery that has puzzled literary researchers and librarians for decades. Quite late in the production process, as the book was nearly ready to go into print, I still believed that it was impossible to prove with certainty who “Hope” really was. If it hadn’t been for a chance database search on another project – a veritable tumble down the archival rabbit-hole – I wouldn’t have been able to connect the dots to arrive at the forger’s unmasking. With this new information in hand, the game is newly afoot: I hope to go back to the archives, to learn more about a certain Brett Holland (from Gastonia, North Carolina) who reinvented himself as the French fashion journalist and literary chronicler “Sylvestre Dorian” after the Wilde forgeries he peddled under the name “Dorian Hope” proved profitless. But that’s another story.


    Gregory Mackie is an associate professor in the Department of English Language and Literatures at the University of British Columbia, and the author of Beautiful Untrue Things.

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