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Discourses of DenialMediations of Race, Gender,and Violence
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Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Discourses of denial : mediations of race, gender, and violence / Yasmin Jiwani.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-13: 978-0-7748-1237-5ISBN-10: 0-7748-1237-0
1. Women immigrants – Canada – Social conditions. 2. Minority women –
Canada – Social conditions. 3. Sex discrimination against women – Canada.
4. Violence – Canada. 5. Violence – Press coverage – Canada. I. Title.
UBC Press gratefully acknowledges the financial support for our publishingprogram of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing IndustryDevelopment Program (BPIDP), and of the Canada Council for the Arts, andthe British Columbia Arts Council.
This book has been published with the help of a grant from the CanadianFederation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, through the Aid to ScholarlyPublications Programme, using funds provided by the Social Sciences andHumanities Research Council of Canada.
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my grandfather, Sultanaly Contractor
my colleagues, Amanda Ocran and Bob Everton
Part 1: Laying the Terrain
Reframing Violence / 3
Mapping Race in the Media / 30
Part 2: Sensationalized Cases
Erasing Race: The Story of Reena Virk / 65
Culturalizing Violence and the Vernon “Massacre” / 90
Part 3: Voicing the Violence
Racialized Girls and Everyday Negotiations / 111
Gendered Racism, Sexist Violence, and the Health Care System / 145
Part 4: Mediations of Terror
Gendering Terror Post-9/11 / 177
Presenting a paper on imperial feminisms at a recent conference panel onmediating inclusions and exclusions, I was struck by a comment from oneof the few attendees at the session, a well-established White scholar. Hisquestion centred on why we, the panellists, had decided to talk about raceas if it were a “real” category. His language was somewhat more sophisti-cated, but his basic argument was that in making race real, we were danger-ously close to essentializing a category that is fluid and socially constructed.
This is an argument often articulated against those who talk and teach race.
My response to that comment was and is that race is real to me. It marks mejust as gender does, but the confluence of race and gender interlocks inways that shape every facet of my life, determining the choices I make, thepaths I travel, and the roads I am prohibited from travelling.
Later that day, my co-panellist, also a White man, commented on the
nature of the question we were asked on the panel. Having just observedquestions that were directed at me in a consecutive panel, he noted thatdoing any kind of work on race seemed like a constant battle, that I wasalways being challenged and my views contested. Speaking of the earlierpanel in which he had participated, he commented that the man asking thequestion was White like himself. Whereupon he remarked that such a ques-tion was possible because the questioner, like himself, could always opt inand out of the struggle. I cannot opt in and out of the struggle. In fact, thestruggle is an ongoing challenge in which the task is one of explaining race,showing its intricacies, and suffering its consequences. Nevertheless, asSherene Razack cautions us, none of us is innocent in the story of race.
Rather, we all have privileges and penalties that accrue from our particularpositioning in the raced and gendered hierarchies that contain and defineus. This book, then, is part of that constant challenge in talking race, but italso reflects the privilege in being able to tell this story, for not everyone hasthe opportunity to do so.
No work stands in isolation, and this book is no different. I would espe-
cially like to acknowledge the volunteers at the FREDA Centre and mostparticularly Bruce Kachuk. As well, my sincere thanks to Jo-Anne Lee, afriend and a colleague, who persuaded me to take on this task of integratingthe various researches I have conducted. A special note of appreciation toLinnett Fawcett, whose friendship and solidarity will always be valued andwho spent countless hours trying to put order to a disorderly array ofthoughts and texts; Felix Odartey-Wellington, who has been more of a col-league than a student and whose last-minute searches and careful readingsaved the day; and Ya Ting Huang, who spent many hours putting togetherwhat seemed like a never-ending reference list; Candis Steenbergen for herwise comments and encouragement throughout; Christian Bertelsen for histhought-provoking reflections and critical reading; Ross Perigoe for his com-ments on an earlier draft; and to Tanisha Ramachandran, who was alwaysthere. I am immensely grateful for her friendship, companionship and soli-darity. However, my deepest thanks are for Marie Claire MacPhee and TrishMcIntosh, who stood beside me at the most trying of times, giving me criti-cal feedback and sharing invaluable insights. Most of all, I want to acknowl-edge my partner in life, Iqubal Velji, who nurtured and sustained me throughintense and often frustrating periods of work; my mother and father, Goolzarand Mansuralli Jiwani, to whom I owe so much of what I am today; mysister Sarah for her pragmatic attitude and continuous encouragement, andmy sister Nazlin for being there. The inspiration for this work comes frommy grandfather, Sultanally Contractor and my great aunt Gulbanu Rattansi,may their souls rest in peace.
I owe an intellectual debt to my mentors and colleagues and would espe-
cially like to recognize Helene Berman, Lorraine Cameron, Parin Dossa, PaulHeyer, Amin Al-Hassan, Agnes Huang, Fatima Jaffer, Sherry Jamal, Jo-AnneLee, Minelle Mahtani, Amin Merchant, Shelley Moore, Nancy Janovicek,Sherene Razack, Zool Suleman, and Sunera Thobani. Their work, insights,encouragement and solidarity have made my life much richer and my con-victions stronger. Last but not least, I would like to acknowledge my col-leagues in the Department of Communication Studies at ConcordiaUniversity, who have offered me an intellectual space and a sense of be-longing, and to Emily Andrews and Ann Macklem at UBC Press for theirassistance throughout this process.
Funding is a crucial reality for academics and community researchers alike.
Much of the research presented here was supported by grants from the SocialSciences and Humanities Research Council’s Standard Research Grant (#410-2004-1496) and the Social Cohesion Strategic Theme Grant (829-1999-1002).
As well, Status of Women Canada provided much of the funding for the re-search on racialized girls and young women, and the Vancouver Foundation
with Status of Women Canada and the BC Centre for Excellence for Women’sHealth provided the funds for the research on racialized women and theirencounters with the health care system.
I would also like to acknowledge Taylor and Francis (http://www.tandf.
co.uk) for granting me permission to reprint my essay “Gendering Terror,”which first appeared in Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies
13, 3 (2004):265-91; to Sage, for permission to reprint an article which was published inViolence against Women
11, 7 (2005): 846-75; to Wilfrid Laurier UniversityPress for allowing me to reproduce several pages of my article from Cana-dian Cultural Poesis
, edited by Garry Sherbert, Annie Gerin, and Sheila Petty(forthcoming 2006); and Thomson Nelson for permitting me to reproducesections of my article from their second edition of Mediascapes: New Patternsin Canadian Communication
, edited by Paul Attallah and Leslie Shade (2005).
The strength of this work comes from the voices and experiences of the
girls and women who shared their lives and realities. I thank and acknowl-edge them for sharing their truth. This book is dedicated to their efforts,survival and success in this land we have come to call “home.”
As always, any shortcomings are entirely due to me.
Denials of racism are the stock in trade of racist discourse.
– Teun van Dijk, Race and Ethnic Relations
Canada suffers from historical amnesia. Its citizens andinstitutions function in a state of collective denial. Canadianshave obliterated from their collective memory the racist laws,policies, and practices that have shaped their major social,cultural, political, and economic institutions for 300 years.
– Frances Henry et al., The Colour of Democracy:
Race, gender, and violence continue to be topical issues in contemporaryCanadian society. From public perceptions of increasing girl gang violenceto the supposed importation of terrorism, the “imagined” Canadian nationhas had to not only grapple with a changing “complexion” but also face thepervasive and deeply entrenched nature of violence interwoven in its his-tory and informing contemporary social concerns – from intimate, domes-tic violence to international state-supported violence. This book deals withthese issues, but does so from a critical anti-racist and feminist framework.
As reflected by my titling of the book – Discourses of Denial: Mediations of
Race, Gender, and Violence –
my intent is to demonstrate how the variousissues of racism and sexism constitute forms of violence. Their separationin daily thought and talk serve strategic purposes – namely, in obfuscatinglinks that could facilitate analysis and, more importantly, coalition build-ing. Sexist violence and racist violence share the common denominator ofbeing structured in a larger culture of power – a culture mediated by institu-tions structured in dominance. In focusing on discourses of denial, then,my aim is to explicate the links between different forms of structural violence
as well as demonstrate how discursive fields – the parameters defining aparticular subject matter in terms of how it is thought of and talked about –operate in different realms of social life. These are the mediations I refer toin the book’s title, for it is in their communicative expression, their con-tinual reinforcement of a particular common-sense view of the world, thatseparations between structural and more interpersonal forms of violenceare maintained. It is these discursive strategies and moves by which onekind of violence gets recognized and another erased, trivialized, or containedwithin categories that evacuate the violation of violence that I attend to inthis book.
My focus is on the intersecting and interlocking influences of race, gen-
der, and violence as they contour and texture the Canadian public imagina-tion and, more specifically, as they inform the lives of immigrant girls andwomen of colour. Drawing from academic and activist work, these chaptersmap the terrain of race, gender, and violence in different spheres of sociallife: from mediated representations that advance a particular definition ofracism and racialized groups in the language of culture, to the intertwining,layered, and complex relations between racism, sexism, and violence ineveryday life. I trace the ways in which the violence of racism and sexism isframed, communicated, and experienced – in their encounters with thehealth care system, in the school system, and in representational discoursesoffered by the dominant media.
The notion of mapping evokes associations with geographers and map-
makers who chart the contours of particular terrains, identifying the riftsand valleys, the sites of excavation and danger. Sherene Razack (2002) drawsattention to this task of mapping as being central to the process of coloniza-tion and so positions her work as an “unmapping” of the spatialization ofgendered racial violence. In her unmapping, Razack seeks to strip the colo-nial mantle and organizational structure that has constituted this spatial-ization. My task here is slightly different. My aim is to map the discursivefields that govern the discourses of raced and gendered violence, not so muchin a spatial sense but in terms of highlighting the inundated and unevenlandscape of these multiple and interweaving structures of domination. Inthis sense, my mapping is situated from a vantage point outside these domi-nant discourses insofar as it is grounded in the subjugated knowledges thatI share with those who are in the interstices of converging oppressions. Butit is also situated within this very terrain of multiple, competing, and hier-archized discourses. Thus, my focus is on the tips of the icebergs, so tospeak, that emerge from the subterranean deposits of accumulated knowl-edge, knowledge grounded in a legacy of colonialism. Those tips that I lookat represent the institutionalized structures and systems that embody inexplicit and tangible forms some of the valuations and rules encoded inthese subterranean archives of knowledge.
Consequently, in mapping these terrains, I pay specific attention to two
sensational cases that were widely reported in the media in order to illus-trate the ways in which the discourses of race and racism are translated inthe language of dominance. I juxtapose these mediations with empiricalstudies that examine the realities of girls of colour and recount the myriadways in which they struggle to negotiate a sense of identity and belonging.
I extend this analysis to the domain of health care, detailing the findings ofa qualitative study highlighting the voices of immigrant women of colourwho have experienced violence and recount their interactions with healthcare professionals in settings such as hospitals and emergency rooms. Fromthe rather private context of the health care encounter, I return to the me-diated nature of our stock of common-sense knowledge, directing the focusthis time to an exploration of the gendered nature of terror – how the me-dia represented the events of 9/11, with specific attention to the racializeddiscourse of that coverage.
In deconstructing the discourses of power that form and inform social
life, I am keenly aware of the constantly shifting and somewhat tenuousnature of legitimization as a process by which dominant institutions obtainconsent from those they govern. In other words, while I focus on structuresof power and the discursive devices used to maintain them, I also direct myattention to the sites of intervention where such power can be challenged,transformed, or diverted in the interests of privileging subjugated knowl-edge(s) (Foucault 1980a, 82), even if these ruptures are only momentary.
Consequently, I end certain chapters in this book with possibilities andsuggestions for interventions within the existing matrix of institutional andinformal power bases – the matrix of domination (Collins 1990). As Fou-cault (1980b, 95) has noted, where there is power, there is resistance.
In examining the ways in which race, gender, and violence are mediated
through everyday talk and text, I argue that three ideal types (using MaxWeber’s  conceptual category) emerge: the reasonable person, the pre-ferred immigrant/conditional Canadian, and the preferred patient. Theseideal types implicitly describe and prescribe the ideal typical Canadian. As areasonable person, especially within the context of law, the ideal typicalCanadian is the law-abiding, rational, White, middle-class person who speaksthe dominant language and embodies national mythologies that are thenperformed accordingly. Much has been written about the reasonable per-son test in law, particularly from a feminist standpoint (Bhandar 1997; Devlin1995).1 The notion of a reasonable person, especially as derived from thenational mythology of Canada as a peaceful kingdom, rests on the assump-tion that such a person makes few demands, pays her/his taxes, and livesout her/his life in a linear trajectory that begins from humble origins andrises to the pinnacle of economic and social success. Such a person caresabout her/his society, contributes to its well-being, and participates in the
active maintenance of the social order through citizenship. This hypo-thetical person does not complain about injustices, does not play the raceor gender “card,” and does not make unceasing demands on the state or onothers. Instead, benevolence marks her/his attitude toward others who areless fortunate. Ultimately, however, the reasonable person perceives every-one as equal and enjoying the right to make what they will of their lives.
This is the ideal Canadian. For the purpose of clarity and generality, I donot draw the gendered distinctions here, though they undoubtedly bear onwho constitutes the ideal Canadian woman or man. Rather, what I wish tounderscore are the hegemonic notions of masculinity and femininity thatare raced, classed, sexualized, and able-bodied.
The preferred immigrant fits the mould of the reasonable person. But,
unlike the reasonable person, who is most likely to be born in the countryand who is White, the preferred immigrant tends to be a person of colour.
This person does not bring conflicts over from her/his ancestral lands oforigin. In other words, such a person shows patriotic loyalty to Canada, aland that has provided many opportunities and for which s/he is grateful.
At the same time, the preferred immigrant also believes in the system, ad-hering to the same liberal beliefs as those of the reasonable person. S/he toobelieves that all can succeed if they just try hard enough. Success is seen ineconomic terms. The preferred immigrant, also law-abiding and polite, as-similates into the dominant society. The preferred immigrant leaves her/hisculture behind or retains only those aspects of it that are not problematic orthat can be periodically celebrated outside the closet of family and commu-nity (Mahtani 2001) or kept within it (Peter 1981). S/he is the model minor-ity. Within the context of an encounter with the health system, s/he becomesthe preferred patient, neither demanding nor complaining but simply abid-ing by the rules and the normative standards of the institution. These idealtypes are not mutually exclusive; rather, they shade into one another andare invoked in different contexts. Primarily, they are implicit standardsagainst which Others are evaluated. However, though shrouded in the lay-ered veils of the collective common-sense stock of knowledge, these idealtypes, I suggest, are consistently circulated through media portrayals of Oth-ers who do not “fit” and who transgress these normative rules. They be-come the less preferred. In the privileging of a hierarchy of preferred persons,the violence of dominant structures of power is erased.
This book, then, maps out an important but often neglected labyrinth of
social relations, providing a historical background to present-day inequali-ties and shedding light on how their institutionalization impacts on thecurrent context in which we live.
Situating This Work
Although various chapters in this book were conceptualized and some writ-
ten at different times and delivered to diverse audiences, they nonethelesscohere around the central theme of denial – how denial is expressed andhow discourses of denial contribute to the erasure, containment, trivial-ization, or dismissal of racism as a form of violence. In bringing these piecestogether, and reflecting on the common themes underpinning the analysespresented, my intent is to demonstrate the discursive violence through whichthis denial is accomplished. Throughout this body of work, I constantlyreiterate the extent to which Canada, as a nation, practises denial when itcomes to issues of sexism, classism, and especially racism; how this ten-dency to cover up – to conveniently turn a blind eye – manifests itself at themacro and micro levels of social reality. In the first part of the book, I tracethese manifestations through general mappings of the key concepts of race,gender, violence, and the role of the media. In Parts 2, 3, and 4, the waysthat such denial – be it personal, institutional, or governmental – playsitself out in very real terms at the micro level are illustrated by focusing ona number of case studies and research projects in which I have been directlyinvolved. As notions such as common sense, the reasonable person, andnormative values are repeatedly picked apart and revealed for what they are– arbitrary standards set by the dominant culture to reinforce that culture’ssense of superiority and position of power in society – my hope is that thereader will confront her/his own
common-sense values and practices, andreconsider Canada’s official rhetoric on these and other issues through morecritical lenses.
An equally strong thread throughout this book is the issue of the media’s
complicity in institutional racism and sexism. Be it in their reporting of theviolence experienced by immigrant girls and women (Parts 2 and 3) or thespectre of terrorism post-9/11 (Part 4), I demonstrate how the media act ascrucial agents in the promotion and safeguarding of the dominant culture’svalues, biases, and expectations. I also show how contemporary media cov-erage of people of colour is rooted in, and conveyed to us through, colonial-ly inscribed filters.
In bringing together a discursive analysis of such seemingly diverse issues
as media representations, encounters with the health care system, and theexperiences of racialized girls and women of colour, my purpose is to raiseawareness of the everyday violence resulting from such structured inequali-ties that is occurring in Canada today, and to highlight its tragic conse-quences. These daily enactments of violence, I maintain, are all the moreinsidious because they are kept in the dark – carefully concealed beneathour much lauded and highly celebrated official policies on multiculturalism,gender equality, and human rights. When these violations on occasion sur-face – are brought, via the sensation-seeking media, into the cold light of day– they send shock waves into our normally complacent public consciousnessbut fail to provoke useful reflection upon the root causes underpinning
such tragedies. In locating these individual instances of violence within alarger framework, my aim is to bridge the gap between theory and practice– between conceptual frameworks and their influence and expression ineveryday reality.
This desire to bridge the gap between theory and practice is rooted in my
own experience as an immigrant woman of colour, officially a Canadiancitizen but unofficially an Other, an identity that, as a Muslim, has gainedincreasing salience since 11 September 2001. It also comes from my ownexperiences as an activist, a cultural worker, and now an academic and drawsfrom my confrontations and negotiations with, as well as resistance to, thedominant inscribed standards, values, and attitudes that contour the livesof people of colour.
Much of the work I draw on in these chapters is grounded in my experi-
ences and the opportunities I have had in collaborating on participatoryresearch projects with grassroots community organizations and advocacygroups over the last decade. As the principal researcher and coordinator atthe FREDA Centre, one of the five Canadian centres dedicated to research-ing violence against women and children, I was able to bring an anti-racistperspective to issues of gendered violence. This allowed me to engage inand conduct participatory action research on gender-based violence withmarginalized groups and communities. In these instances, the role of re-search was critical not only in legitimizing the experiential reality of allthose who endure racist and sexist violence but also in attempting to bridgethe gap between the expertise and experience of community and academicknowledge. It is the viability and continued existence of this bridge thatmotivates me to undertake this work. Activism and academia can sustaineach other, both as an attempt to articulate, legitimize, and make sense ofthe experiential realities of oppression, and as enabling strategic interven-tions by which to draw attention to and dismantle the structures of domi-nation. As I outline in the chapters that follow, the legitimizing power ofacademic writing, access, and institutional resources can be harnessed inthe interests of social change even though such attempts are amenable tocooptation by those in power. Nonetheless, as potential sites of interven-tion, such structures of legitimation as the academy are a useful and re-sourceful site for those committed to social change, especially in terms ofchallenging or contesting national mythologies that seek to advance im-ages of Canada as a harmonious, progressive, and liberated state.
My work at the FREDA Centre also foregrounded, both experientially and
academically, the interconnections between racism and sexism. As a Brownwoman in the feminist anti-violence movement, and as an academic amongfront-line workers, my presence signalled the tension between the politicalneed to advance a universal construction of woman as victim of sexist vio-lence and the specificity of racialized sexism as manifested in the situation
of women of colour advocates, service providers, and survivors of violence,a difference I discuss in this book. This tension was exacerbated by the le-gitimate suspicion that academic expertise did nothing other than hijack,through appropriation, the lived experiences and grounded expertise of front-line workers, many of whom had either experienced or witnessed genderedviolence first-hand. Yet, as I demonstrate, racialized and gendered violenceare interconnected and interlocking. When one is privileged as an explana-tory framework, it is often at the expense of the other, and vice versa. Further,these interlocking structures of domination certify that the ensuing violenceis framed, understood, and responded to differently, all in the interests ofretaining the basic structure of power and privilege of White dominance.
The overall strength of this body of work – and hence its critical impor-
tance to scholars, activists, service providers, and the general public – lies inits mapping of the invariably complex and often troubling social, political,and economic terrains in which Canada’s subtle yet highly toxic forms ofracism are evident. I anticipate that these mappings will prove insightfuland informative, that they will fill in many gaps, and that they will provokethought and incite action. I seek both to explain why things are the waythey are and to suggest ways that we can fight for and effect social change.
Through the frequent invoking of the voices of those who endure theserealities daily, I strive to make explicit the experiential impact of racism,sexism, and classism in people’s lives, as well as foster an awareness of howthese forces intersect and operate at a number of levels.
By disturbing these complacencies – the taken-for-granted and normative
prescriptions that texture a sense of normalcy and routinize the violence ofracism, sexism, and classism – my hope is to uncover and lay bare the con-ditions by which a truly organic solidarity can be forged – a solidarity thatvalidates the experiences and feelings of those who are subordinated andthat embraces and promotes their agency in transforming a system struc-tured in dominance.
Defining the Audience
When writing this work, I was confronted with the question of defining my
ideal audience. In reflecting upon this question and dwelling on the terrain
I intended to chart, I quickly came to the conclusion that this book is not
meant for experts. In fact, those who are well versed in high theory will
undoubtedly be left unsatisfied. On the other hand, for those who travel
along multiple and interdisciplinary boundaries, this book might afford them
a better insight into the ways in which systems of dominance are intercon-
nected and how the resulting confluence shapes social reality. Primarily,
though, this book is intended for those who are attempting to make sense of
the violence of racism. They include the young women of colour whose voices
inform the various chapters, the immigrant women whose experiences
form the basis of the investigations outlined here, and the front-line work-ers and advocates in the feminist anti-violence movement, the anti-racismmovement, and other social movements aimed at ending poverty, crimi-nalization, and inequality in all its multiple forms. As well, my hope is thatthis book will serve to inform students, teachers, and policy makers who areinvested in making progressive social change.
A Note on Terminology
Although much of the writing on race has underlined its constructed na-
ture by placing quotation marks around the word, I have decided not to do
so for the simple reason that the reality of race in shaping the lives of people
of colour cannot be disputed. As George Dei (1999) argues, we do not place
quotation marks around the words gender, age, class, sexuality, or ability,
even though each of these categories is socially constructed. Yet, we tend to
construct race as if it were a dubious category. Here, I am not proposing a
genetically deterministic notion of race, an interpretation that has increas-
ingly surfaced on the part of pharmaceutical companies to profit by pro-
ducing tailor-made, race-specific drugs. Rather, it is the socially constructed
nature of race that I wish to underscore. For my part, the terms race, raced,
and racialized refer to the social construct of race and the processes of
racialization by which the construct is imbued with negative valuations,
valuations that are designed to Other, inferiorize, and marginalize groups
and individuals who are different from the ideal type or norm. At the same
time, I do not wish to advance an essentialist notion of race as constituting
some fixed and essential attribute. Instead, my argument is that, in contem-
porary society, the salience of race as a category for regulating power and
access and for maintaining a hierarchy cannot be contested. Thus, rather
than denying it, the critical aspect is to examine conditions that contribute
to the ways in which race is strategically used to define, implicitly and ex-
plicitly, the hierarchies of preference that underpin and reinforce structures
I use the term racialized women of colour throughout this book, bearing
in mind that this terminology is rather context specific. In Britain, womenof colour are commonly referred to, in academic writing at least, as Blackwomen. The designation of Black has different meanings in the United Statesand Canada. In speaking about racialized women of colour, I am cognizantthat Aboriginal women and White women are also racialized. However,Aboriginal women have a different history, as indigenous peoples of thisland. My position as an immigrant and an Other makes me painfully awareof how immigration itself was structured in the interests of forging the Ca-nadian nation and grounded in the displacement and genocide of Aborigi-nal peoples.
In using terms such as Black and White, I have deliberately chosen to
mark these words by capitalizing them. My intent is to draw attention totheir constructed nature: the technique of capitalization ruptures thenormativity associated with these words.
I have divided this book into four parts, each of which deals with a specific
facet of the overall themes of race, gender, and violence. I locate the
confluence of these themes in different domains, paying particular atten-
tion to the discourses of denial operating within each of the contexts being
examined. An organizing principle underlying the chapters is the implicit
contrast between the mediated representations of violence as these are com-
municated in the mass media, notably print media, and the experiential
realities of those directly affected by the violence of racism. Thus, while the
first two chapters lay out the theoretical scaffold on which the rest of the
work hangs, the subsequent chapters juxtapose this contrast between medi-
ated representations and experiential realities. In the last chapter, I return
to the mediated representations, this time drawing out their material impli-
cations for those most affected by the coverage. Implicit in the organization
is the link between public and private aspects of violence. In other words,
what appear as public texts in the mass mediated world are indelibly linked
to the occurrences that texture the private realm of experience. However,
these private experiences are not simply reflected but refracted in the medi-
Part 1: Laying the Terrain
In the introductory chapter, “Reframing Violence,” I lay out the conceptual
framework for the book and make an argument for examining various do-
mains of inquiry through a raced and gendered perspective. Key terms are
defined and elaborated. I draw particular attention to the hierarchical na-
ture of Canadian society, pointing out its history as a colony and a coloniz-
ing nation. I situate the interlocking influences of race, gender, and class,
highlighting the ways in which the dominant culture of power maintains
its hegemonic control. I link the hierarchical nature of Canadian society to
the dimensions and realities of structural violence, emphasizing the par-
ticular factors that shape and contribute to the marginalization of racialized
women of colour. The resulting vulnerabilities, I argue, are anchored in
structures of dominance, which define the standards by which racialized
people are assessed and treated in ways that influence their lived realities
In the second mapping of this part – Chapter 2, “Mapping Race in the
Media” – I elaborate on concepts introduced at the beginning of this book –
concepts such as culture, racism, and sexism – and insert the media intothe picture, suggesting not only how the media play a major role in shap-ing public opinion but how the strategic use of the media is one of theprimary ways that those in positions of power justify, legitimize, and gainsupport for the actions they take. The media, as Stuart Hall (1980a) hasargued, are structured in dominance. They make up a powerful institutionpopulated and controlled by the elite, who then liaise with other elites tomaintain the status quo (van Dijk 1993). The media, as institutions, areamong the wealthiest organizations in this society. They constitute a mono-poly of knowledge, and through their practices of selection, editing, andproduction determine the kinds of information we receive about our cul-ture, nation, and the rest of the world. How race is represented in the domi-nant media is indicative of the place accorded to racialized groups in thesymbolic landscape of the nation, and further, of how they are perceivedin terms of belonging to the imagined community reflected by the media.
Part 2: Sensationalized Cases
Chapters 3 and 4, in Part 2, examine the murders of Reena Virk in Victoria,
and members of the Gakhal and Saran families in Vernon, British Colum-
bia. Both these cases were widely reported in the provincial and national
media. Through these case studies, I illustrate the ways in which specific
definitions of culture are used and in some instances evacuated from the
kinds of explanatory frameworks offered by officials such as court judges
and the media. As with official government discourse, the media tend to
identify culture as that which is visible and different from the norm. The
norm remains invisible in the background but nevertheless is a benchmark
by which to assess and evaluate the differences of those whose cultures are
considered to be Other. In the case of the Vernon tragedy, the cultural
signifiers used throughout the reportage clearly position the murders as
arising from a cultural practice of arranged marriages and women’s suppos-
edly subordinate status within the Sikh religious tradition. The analysis of
the murder of Reena Virk, however, points out how a cultural explanation
is explicitly avoided in order to divert attention from issues of racism and
the consequences of racialized difference, and to privilege a definition of
the situation as emerging from girl violence and bullying. In the last in-
stance, the emphasis on girl violence and bullying serves to legitimize the
dominant frame of girl-on-girl violence. This, I argue, fuels an ongoing back-
lash against feminism.
By juxtaposing these two cases, I show how race is conveniently erased
when it suits the public imagination and the media’s agenda, and conversely,invoked in a culturalized form (to the exclusion of almost all else) whendeemed necessary. Hence, the killing of Reena Virk is framed as a generic
girl gang violence phenomenon, while the Vernon murders are attributedto a culturally specific ethnic phenomenon.
Part 3: Voicing the Violence
As I suggest above, there has been increasing media focus and public atten-
tion devoted to the issue of violence against girls, especially in cases where
that violence is perpetrated by other girls. Within Canada, this attention has
often been couched in the media as an emblematic sign of gendered equality
– namely, that girls have become just like
boys, in other words, as violent
boys. Using this debatable proposition as a jumping-off point to interrogate
what is really going on out there in the world of girls and young women, I
examine in Chapter 5, “Racialized Girls and Everyday Negotiations,” the
particular susceptibilities to violence experienced by young women of colour.
Drawing on research data gathered using a participatory action research frame-
work, I focus on the heightened risks faced by these young women as a result
of their social location in a hierarchically raced and gendered society, and
highlight the particular ways in which systemic and intimate forms of vio-
lence intersect and interlock in their lives. I also outline some of the meth-
odological issues involved in conducting research with communities that
are marginalized because of their immigrant and racialized status.
By combining my voice with those of the girls in this study who coura-
geously spoke out about their lives, I emphasize the subtlety with whichracism is communicated and naturalized, and how it intersects and inter-locks with sexism to influence the lived realities of racialized girls and youngwomen of colour. The particular and often conflicting dynamics at play forgirls who find themselves dealing with a confluence of patriarchal powerswithin and outside their communities are also examined.
Chapter 6, “Gendered Racism, Sexist Violence, and the Health Care Sys-
tem,” examines the issue of immigrant women of colour and their experi-ence of violence, and their subsequent encounters with and access to theformal health care system. By “health care system” I am referring to physi-cians’ private practices, walk-in clinics, and hospitals where women are likelyto seek services for violence-related health issues. After reviewing some of thecurrent literature in the area and identifying key variables that contributeto immigrant women’s vulnerability to violence and lack of access to healthcare, I introduce the voices of immigrant women of colour and service pro-viders who participated in research conducted in British Columbia. Bring-ing these voices into concert with those studies cited in the first part of thechapter, I conclude by arguing for a socio-ecological model of health carethat recognizes the power inequalities and imbalances imbricated in themedical encounter between immigrant women of colour and the medicalprofessionals who serve them.
Part 4: Mediations of Terror
Although the medical encounter constitutes one site in which gendered
racism and sexist violence are understood and reproduced in a specifically
hegemonic sense, the circulation of mediated images that feed into and
retrench stereotypes of racialized Others is the base from which, I argue,
preconceptions about preferred patients and immigrants actually emerge.
Thus, in the final chapter, “Gendering Terror Post-9/11,” I return to the
media’s representation of these very issues, this time focusing on race, gen-
der, and violence as symbolically communicated through representations
of the Orientalized body. In this final chapter, I interrogate the notion of
terror and its gendering in the press coverage following the events of 11
September 2001. I begin by outlining the discursive structures of Orientalism
as defined by Edward Said (1979) and go on to examine their resonance and
continuity in stories covered by the Montreal Gazette
. This newspaper’s pe-
culiar location and status as the major English daily in Montreal, a Québécois
landscape that contains a sizeable Muslim population, makes it a valuable
object of inquiry. An analysis of the Gazette
’s coverage demonstrates the
ways in which the media rework and refract dominant discourses of racism
and sexism. The consequences of being constructed as threatening Others
are then explored from a gendered and raced perspective.
In the Conclusion, I draw together the threads that have been woven
throughout the parts. I ground this approach in a strategy that seeks to
rupture dominant frames of meaning by strategically inserting alternative
viewpoints and presenting alternative explanations. For it is in disturbing
the complacencies that we get a glimpse of the alternatives – alternatives
which, when applied, might serve the task of dismantling structures of domi-
nation and creating a more egalitarian society.
This book is written from an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary per-spective. As an intellectual bricoleur, I traverse various terrains seeking outdifferent insights in order to name and make sense of the structures of domi-nation that contain, constrain, and erase the lives of those on the margins.
I do not profess expertise in all these realms of knowledge, each of which isaccompanied by its own specialized stock of knowledge. Instead, in thetradition of bricolage, I seek to assemble and link those insights that canhelp make sense of our existing realities and that can rupture the seeminglysmooth surface of our collective common-sense stock of knowledge. In draw-ing attention to the fissures and ridges in this stock of knowledge, I amreminded once again of my own standpoint, both as a woman of colourand as an activist-scholar. But rather than relativize the insights offeredhere as merely stemming from one standpoint among many, I prefer to
situate them within the larger tradition of critical anti-racist and feministwork, acknowledging the debt I owe to those who have initiated and whocontinue this struggle in diverse ways and on multiple fronts. My hope isthat this work will fulfill what Sherene Razack (1998a, 16) has so eloquentlyarticulated, in that, “if we can name the organizing frames, the conceptualformulas, the rhetorical devices that disguise and sustain elites, we can be-gin to develop responses that bring us closer to social justice.” This work isoffered as one small contribution toward that end.
Viewing the very definition of violence as lying outside
hierarchi-cal power relations of race and gender ignores how the power todefine what counts as violence is constitutive of these same powerrelations.
– Patricia Hill Collins, “The Tie That Binds:
Our societal definition of violence must include the direct results
of poor medical care, economic inferiority, oppressive legislation,and cultural invisibility. By broadening our definition of violence,we combat the minimalization of our experiences as women ofcolour by the dominant culture. We must name the violence, orwe will not be able to address it.
– Chezia G. Carraway, “Violence against Women
The two epigraphs above underline the necessity to broaden existing defi-nitions of violence so they encapsulate the complex dynamics of interlock-ing forms of oppression. Many of these forms are structurally rooted and itis this quality of embeddedness that needs to be deconstructed if we are tounmask the discourses of denial operative in Canadian society. In this chap-ter, I focus on the ways in which violence is commonly understood andhow its common-sense definitions occlude structural factors. In pursuingthis line of inquiry, my intent is to underline the ways in which violence isstructured in dominance. I begin by defining the structures of power thatunderpin, inform, and regulate social relations, including those around gen-der and race. I argue that the society in which we live is deeply anchored ina history of violence and in that respect replicates a pattern of dominance
derived from and inscribed within a colonial legacy. Drawing from criticalanti-racist feminist frameworks, I discuss intersecting and interlocking hier-archies of power that maintain inequalities structured on the basis of raceand gender. The invisibility of these structures of power and the attendantdiscursive economy of violence are communicated through institutions oflegitimation, including the mass media, a topic I explore in the followingchapter. However, this discursive economy of violence is also rendered legiti-mate through the very definitions employed to define and describe violence.
I trace these definitions, highlighting the role of common sense, as groundedin structures of White dominance, and the resulting explanatory frame-works that are deployed to explain violence as experienced by racializedwomen of colour. My point of departure necessarily begins with a contex-tualization of race and its relationship to White structures of dominance.
Contextualizing Race within the Power of Whiteness
Scholars have repeatedly pointed to the history of Canada both as a colo-
nizing and colonized country (see Bannerji 2000; Thobani 2002a; Razack
1998a, 1998b, 2002). This dual and somewhat contradictory historical for-
mation has undoubtedly shaped the way in which the state continues to
stratify groups in the interests of maintaining a hierarchical structure of
power and privilege. Violence is one effective way by which particular groups
are kept in their place. But rather than espouse a limited definition of vio-
lence that tends to be ingrained in our common-sense stock of knowledge,
the definition of violence I adhere to in this chapter encompasses the spec-
trum of coercive, physical, and institutional power – in other words, it sub-
sumes the very character, instruments, and goals of domination.
A crucial way in which power is naturalized and communicated is through
structures of dominance. These structures are grounded in predominant“ways of seeing,” to borrow a phrase from John Berger (1972). The latterderive from and reinforce the dominant common-sense stock of knowledge– that which is taken for granted, assumed, and reproduced over time. StuartHall (1990a) argues that a society’s common-sense stock of knowledge isnever homogeneous or monolithic. Rather, it is filled with contradictorybits and pieces of knowledge that are acquired, transformed, and repro-duced over time. Drawing from Gramsci, Hall (1979, 325-26) reasons, “It isprecisely its ‘spontaneous’ quality, its transparency, its ‘naturalness,’ its re-fusal to be made to examine the premises on which it is founded, its resis-tance to change or to correction, its effect of instant recognition, and theclosed circle in which one moves which makes common sense, at one andthe same time, ‘spontaneous,’ ideological and unconscious. You cannot learn,through common sense, how things are:
you can only discover where they fit
into the existing scheme of things.” It is the commonalities inherent in theshared language of power, through which consent is obtained, that become
the crux of any inquiry that seeks to decode how power is discursively pro-duced and reproduced. In other words, the focus is one of deciphering thetypes of discursive devices and strategies and the ways in which they areused to explain violence in the mass media, in the courts, in hospitals, andin the everyday lives of racialized girls and women of colour. What do thesestrategies have in common? And how do they shape the lives of racializedgirls and young women of colour? How are they naturalized and made rec-ognizable? In other words, what makes them pass as common sense suchthat one simply takes them for granted?
, John Gabriel (1998, 13) argues: “The power of whiteness
lies in a set of discursive techniques, including exnomination
, that is thepower not to be named; naturalization
, through which whiteness establishesitself as the norm by defining ‘others’ and not itself; and universalization
,where whiteness alone can make sense of a problem and its understandingbecomes the
understanding.” Exnomination, naturalization, and universal-ization become the tools by which racialized groups are differentiated fromthe dominant White elites, with the basis of that difference being natural-ized in the language of common sense. While elite power remains unnamed,the profile of racialized groups is heightened in contrast, and while thedominant power remains invisibilized, the stigmatization and Othering ofracialized groups is rendered more visible and necessitated on the groundsof perceived and assumed difference; similarly, through universalization,racialized groups are wittingly and unwittingly compared with those whoare considered normal, where normalcy is defined according to dominantcriteria of the good, law-abiding citizen or the reasonable person.
In his illuminating work on fantasies of White supremacy, Ghassan Hage
posits that such fantasies are foundational to nationalism in White settlersocieties. As such, they derive from and feed into a field of Whiteness. Hesuggests (2000, 58) that
“Whiteness” is an everchanging, composite cultural historical construct. Ithas its roots in the history of European colonisation which universalised acultural form of White identity as a position of cultural power at the sametime as the colonised were in the process of being racialised. Whiteness in
opposition to Blackness and Brownness, was born the same time as thebinary oppositions colonizer/colonized, being developed/being underde-veloped, and later First World/Third World was emerging. In this sense,White has become the ideal of being the bearer of “Western” civilization.
As such, no one can be fully White, but people yearn to be so. It is in thissense, that Whiteness is itself a fantasy position and a field of accumulating
Whiteness. It is by being qualified to yearn for such a position that peoplecan become identified as White. At the same time, to be White does notmean to yearn to be European in a geographical sense.
In referring to the simultaneous construction of Whiteness and the
racialization of people of colour, Hage draws attention to the legacies im-parted by colonialism. In its simplest term, racialization refers to the pro-cess whereby groups are marked on the basis of some kind of real or putativedifference – whether this is skin colour, culture, religion, language, or na-tionality (Miles 1989, 74). Although such a broad definition captures therelations of power inherent in racialization, it fails to inflect the violence ofracialization – a violence poignantly captured in Franz Fanon’s (1967) work.
For Fanon, the violence of racialization was directly linked to colonizationand manifested in the corporeality of the body. Skin colour assumes a height-ened significance in this regard, as it becomes the site and repository ofdiscourses of difference – discourses highly damaging to the psyche anddevelopment of the racialized Other (see Barot and Bird 2001). For the Blackbody to be constructed as different and inferior means that the White bodyretains its pristine, innocent, and valorized status. Thus, racialization is adialectic process. It rests on the centrality of Whiteness – its normativityand invisibility.
The hierarchical nature of contemporary Canadian society is part of our
taken-for-granted, common-sense stock of knowledge. It remains invisible(in terms of its dominance) yet transparent in the economic and culturalprivileging of certain groups over Others. It also communicates the position-ing of different groups. Hence, how groups and individuals are seen be-comes crucial in terms of where they are placed in the social order. Andhow they are perceived is itself contingent on the historical stock of knowl-edge underpinning the contemporary social order. Further, how they areregarded, and how they in turn perceive themselves, influences the kinds ofactions that are directed against them, as well as the actions they them-selves undertake (S. Hall 1992).
As with the positioning and perception of different groups in society, the
shared language of power as it is discursively communicated by dominantinstitutions (such as the media, the medical system, the justice system, andthe education system) influences the categories by which the world is de-fined. Hence, certain definitions of violence are normatively enshrined – theyare taken for granted and influence the ways in which violence is under-stood in everyday thought and talk. In other words, they shape the cogni-tive and social “maps of meaning” (Morley 1980) that make categories suchas violence intelligible and, in the process, define those aspects of violencethat are sanctioned and those that need to be defused or punished.
Violence and Hierarchies of Power
It has been suggested that we live in a violent society and that the violence
which takes place within the intimate context of the family mirrors the
violence that surrounds us (Lynn and O’Neill 1995). Although this view has
some legitimacy, particularly if one observes the ways in which violence isaccepted, glorified, and normalized in certain contexts, it fails to addressthe complexity of social relations and institutions that tolerate and sustainviolence and those that prohibit the use of violence. Nor does such a viewtake into consideration the factors that contribute to the increased vulner-ability of some groups of people to violence and that promote the differen-tial valuations attached to specific forms of violence such that some formsof violence are invisibilized and others rendered more apparent. Moreover,this approach invites the question of how certain forms of violence benefitsome people at the expense of others, and further, how they inform society’sattitudes toward particular forms of violence.
Dictionary definitions of violence embrace its physical, psychological,
and discursive dimensions and underline the use of force and the abuse ofpower inherent in all forms of violence. What they fail to capture are thelevels at which violence occurs and the differential treatment of variouskinds of violence. Violence occurs within intimate relationships, betweenpeers, at the societal level, within institutions, and within and betweenstates. Some forms of violence are sanctioned, others more indirectly en-dorsed, and some are just not tolerated. Until recently, for instance, vio-lence in ice hockey was considered part of the game. That view has beencontested and there is increasing opposition to open displays of violenceon the ice. Nonetheless, sports such as wrestling depend on violence orstylized violence for their appeal. Video games, television shows, and popu-lar sports all embody forms of violence that are celebrated as testaments ofstrength, endurance, and power. State-imposed violence is yet another ex-ample of the use and abuse of power. Slavery, indentured labour, the intern-ment of particular groups of people during specific historical periods, andthe ongoing genocide and containment of Aboriginal peoples on reservesare just a few examples of state-imposed violence. More recent examplesinclude the detention of immigrants and refugees, and the imposition ofwelfare laws that exercise punitive measures on specific groups of people.
As Collins (1998, 922) maintains, “Definitions of violence lie not in actsthemselves but in how groups controlling positions of authority conceptu-alize such acts.”
In contextualizing contemporary violence, it is imperative to recall the vio-
lence inherent in the very process of nation building, the creation of theCanadian state through colonization. As Thobani (2000a, 283) asserts: “Thenation that was ‘imagined’ by British, and later by Canadian, ruling eliteswas a White one, and what we have come to know today as the Canadiannation was founded through the colonization of Aboriginal peoples, thesubordination of their sovereignties, the appropriation of their resources,and the settlement of Europeans on Aboriginal lands.” The subsequent hi-erarchies of power that were installed to create and solidify the boundaries
of the Canadian state were themselves embodiments of violent struggleswaged in the interests of gaining control. As Thobani notes, there were morethan five hundred Aboriginal cultures residing on Turtle Island, the namethat Aboriginal nations use to call what is now known as Canada. Theircontainment on reserves, and assimilation through measures such as theresidential school system, displacement, and genocide, contributed andcontinues to contribute to the formation of Canada as a nation-state. Thishierarchical structure of power is not monolithic or homogeneous. Often,torn apart by internal tensions, competing interests, and diverging loyal-ties, its tenuous hold is maintained through economic, cultural, and politi-cal dominance (see also Huttenback 1976).
The reality of colonization is evident in its enduring legacy. As Edward
Said (1979, 41) observes, by 1914, the European powers had colonized 85percent of the world. In effect, colonization entailed the destruction of in-digenous economies, the indigenous knowledge base (composed of spiri-tual beliefs, social and normative values, and juridical and politicalgovernance structures), and modes of knowledge transmission (L. Smith1999). Colonization, in other words, transformed the world as it existed(Wynn Davies, Nandy, and Sardar 1993). It privileged a hierarchy wherebyWhite, able-bodied, heterosexual (by and large) males remained at the helmof colonial enterprises. As Anne McClintock (1995, 6) suggests, “The vast,fissured architecture of imperialism was gendered throughout by the factthat it was white men who made and enforced laws and policies in theirown interests.”
In the interests of colonizing, the reigning elites in Canada, as in other
colonies, selectively chose particular groups by which to accomplish the taskof nation building. Through preferential structures, specific groups wereprivileged over others. Some were brought in as cheap, indentured labourto be used and then returned to their countries of origin, others were en-couraged to settle the land, and others still were confined to pieces of landsthey once possessed. The end result was a vertical mosaic, a mosaic in whichthe pieces were kept apart and arranged in a manner that secured the powerand privilege of the ruling elite.1
The notion of Canada as a vertical mosaic was subsequently fleshed out
by John Porter (1965), and although the specificities of his model have beencritiqued, its relevance lies in making visible the hierarchical nature of Ca-nadian society (Bolaria and Li 1988; Calliste and Dei 2000; P. Li 2003). To-day, this hierarchy is regulated economically by a preference for “Canadianexperience” and Canadian credentials, and undergirded by symbolic pref-erence structures regarding who constitutes a real Canadian (see Folson 2004).
Roberta Hamilton (1996) has extended this concept to include the gendereddimension of Canadian society, emphasizing the exclusion of women’s con-
cerns and the differential allocation of societal rewards, as well as the exer-cise of punitive measures on different groups of women (see also Razack2002).
Clearly, any hierarchical system sustains itself through the deployment
of categories whereby groups can be defined and ranked in terms of theiraccess to varying degrees of power and privilege. This is where the conceptsof racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, classism, and homophobia become ar-ticulated with other concomitant social institutions to advance and legiti-mize criteria of inclusion and exclusion. As instruments of power, thesestructures of domination define the social order, producing and reproduc-ing social inequalities through articulating and prescribing differential val-ues to these differences. But these structures are themselves deeply rootedin the violent exercise of power – whether such power is communicatedthrough coercion or explicit brutality. Their power resides in the discursiveformations that have evolved in conjunction with the need to maintainand legitimize the power and privilege of elites.
A discursive formation, as David Goldberg (1990, 297) argues, “consists
of a totality of ordered relations and correlations – of subjects to each otherand to objects; of economic production and reproduction, cultural symbol-ism and signification; of laws and moral rules; of social, political, economic,or legal inclusion and exclusion. The sociodiscursive formation consists ofa range of rules: ‘is’s’ and ‘oughts,’ ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts,’ ‘cans’ and ‘cannots,’‘thou shalts’ and ‘thou shalt nots.’” Such formations are circulated throughwhat Foucault (1980a) refers to as “regimes of truth.” As Foucault (1980a,131) notes, the effectiveness of these discourses is apparent in their “orga-nizing and regulating relations of power,” such that that power becomesnormalized. Hence, how violence is understood, experienced, and respondedto is indicative of a discursive formation that defines and regulates its mean-ing such that this meaning is consonant and articulated with the needs andideologies advanced within different social domains, but which can yet beharnessed by the dominant powers.
It is the normalization of violence that renders it invisible, or visible only
under certain conditions and within prescribed definitions. Hence, the vio-lence of colonialism, of nation building, are made invisible. Similarly, theviolence of racism, sexism, ableism, and other structures of domination areveiled from view, leaving only the most explicit traces of victimization, whichare subsequently subsumed and marginalized in the subjugated discoursesof the communities so affected. Himani Bannerji (2000, 47) eloquently sum-marizes the situation when she states: “This story of neo-colonialism, ofexploitation, racism, discrimination and hierarchical citizenship never gainsmuch credibility or publicity with the Canadian state, the public or themedia.”
Legacies of colonialism and Orientalism (Said 1979) form a backdrop against
which contemporary policies and practices are articulated and which in-forms and underpins the construction of racialized peoples and communi-ties. Regulatory practices such as immigration admission criteria, legislationconcerning crime and deviance, social practices, and stereotypical judgmentsabout peoples of colour are some of the ways in which particular groups areracialized and constructed in the Canadian landscape. They constitute thegrid through which racialized peoples are perceived and subjected to differ-ential treatment through strategies and tactics of exclusion, annulment, stig-matization based on disavowal, and conditional acceptance based onexoticization, assimilation, and the ideology of democratic liberalism.2
In Canada’s history, it is evident that racialized women were used to con-
solidate the nation as a White settler society (Abu-Laban 1998; Bannerji2000; Thobani 1999a). Regarded as moral and social threats, women of colourwere feared as transmitters of sexually communicated diseases and for theirpresumed fecundity. Early suffragists argued that women of colour shouldbe denied entry so that their offspring could not in any way pollute thepurity of the nation and, by corollary, diminish the value and stature ofWhite women. Early laws, as Backhouse (1999) demonstrates, were formu-lated to impede the migration of people of colour, especially women, andprohibit any engagement between men of colour and White women (seealso Walker 1997). These men were not allowed to employ or engage inrelations with White women (see also Park 2004). Unable to bring theirwives and children with them, many formed bachelor communities inghettoized neighbourhoods (Chan 1981; Wu 2003).
It can be argued that the continuity between first generation and subse-
quent generations of people of colour in White settler colonies lies in theexistence of colonial traces that contain and define their representationsand mediate their daily realities. In this regard, the bodies of women ofcolour were and continue to be regarded as requiring control and contain-ment. Although their sexuality was once viewed as a boon to service themen of Empire, now women of colour are most likely to be constructed asable-bodied subjects, whose labour, sexual or otherwise, can be exploitedfor the benefit of the nation. These representations are most evident in theracialized hierarchies of preference and privilege structuring contempo-rary Western societies.
Racially based internal hierarchies of power and privilege are, then, a struc-
tural feature of White settler societies such as Canada. Within such a frame-work, diverse groups occupy correspondingly different positions in thehierarchy, their positionality secured through complicity and compliance.
The social practices of such a vertical mosaic translate into daily occur-rences through which racialized groups not only are relegated to the bot-tom of the hierarchy (through differential degrees of exclusion and
inferiorization) but also, through internalization, enact those very practiceswithin their own peer groups.
A broader discussion of these race-based hierarchies needs to be grounded
in the context of contemporary multiculturalism, given that it remains a
dominant ideology, organizing relations of power between groups in soci-
ety. Critical analyses of Canadian multiculturalism suggest that it was a
policy founded on the myth of two charter groups – the English and the
French – and designed to appeal to both while simultaneously appeasing
the needs of the “third force” – the German and Ukrainian population situ-
ated on the Prairies and the west coast of the country (Moodley 1983; Peter
1981). Legislated into law in 1988, the policy has since evolved from one of
political containment, especially aimed at neutralizing Québécois national-
ism, to a celebration of culture and heritage and, more recently, to a policy
designed to gain equity for groups that have and continue to be excluded
from the dominant spheres of society. Fleras and Kunz (2001) offer a useful
breakdown of the policy, demonstrating its evolution from its inception to
its current application. They argue that in the 1970s, when the policy was
first formulated, it basically focused on ethnicity. More recently, the focus
has shifted to a civic multiculturalism in which the emphasis on “construc-
tive engagement” with the aim of facilitating inclusion and belonging (16)
are defined as the predominant goals. However, as Das Gupta (1999) points
out, the rhetoric of inclusion and belonging does not have a material, eco-
nomic basis, given the cuts in funding to organizations that mobilize around
the provision of anti-racist services and advocacy.
In practice, however, the initial emphasis on culture continues to con-
found and conflate with issues of race. First, the policy as it has been articu-lated basically translates the historical violation of colonization into one ofcultural coexistence. In other words, how the Canadian state was formed ismythologized as an outcome of two “founding” nations. Aboriginal peoplesand the violence of colonization are carefully erased from this cultural con-ceptualization (Thobani 1998). Second, the policy is riddled with contra-dictions that on the one hand acknowledge individual and group rights,especially with regard to representation and participation, but on the othertranslate these rights into the language of culture. Thus, representation be-comes an act of cultural representation in the cultural arenas of production,and participation is defined in cultural terms – that is, the particularcollective’s right to participate in the cultural spheres of society. The recentemphasis of the policy on issues of inclusion of visible minorities throwsinto relief the central contradictions inherent when culture and race areconflated. For one, the policy in practice tends to equalize all cultural groupsso that distinctions between more established cultural communities that
are no longer racialized in the same way as communities of colour are col-lapsed. Thus, second-, third-, and fourth-generation Irish are regarded in thesame way as more recent racialized communities – the Somali-Canadiancommunity, for example. The net effect is one of erasing the degree andtype of racism directed at the Somali community but also of discountingthe lack of cultural capital and resources within this community as com-pared with the Irish community. I do not mean to suggest that the Irishhave not been racialized and did not suffer historically from exclusion andstigmatization. Instead, as the historical context in the United States dem-onstrates, there was a “Whitening of the Irish” resulting from the politicalalliances they forged with the Southern planters (Bhattacharyya, Gabriel,and Small 2002). What I wish to underscore here is the relevance of race asa salient marker of identification in particular contexts and at given histori-cal moments. As well, where the Irish are positioned vis-à-vis the Somalis ina hierarchy of preferred immigrants is extremely relevant. Further, skin colouras the basis of identification also suggests the degree to which one can passor is unable to pass into dominance. Thus, while the Irish were Whitened atthat particular historical juncture in the history of the South, can the Soma-lis be so Whitened today? I would argue no, and here I base my rejection onthe history of colonialism, the corporeality of race as a marker of identifica-tion that is visible and, through its visibility, used strategically and tacti-cally to maintain White dominance. However, and undoubtedly, thepenalties associated with race can be and often are mitigated by class privi-lege. Nonetheless, the connotations of race ensure that, even with classprivilege, one is likely to encounter certain barriers rooted in systemic struc-tures of domination.
I suggest that when race and ethnicity come together, ethnic identifica-
tion becomes more potent as a political basis of identity and as a signifier ofpower relations than in those situations where such identity simply reflectsaffective ties or a symbolic recuperation based on nostalgia (Gans 1979). AsRumbaut (1994, 754) observes, “Ethnicity may for some groups become op-tional and recede into the social twilight, as it did for the descendants of thewhite Europeans or it may become for others a resilient resource or an en-gulfing master status.” He further suggests that discrimination and dispar-agement are factors that contribute to a heightened attachment to ethnicidentity. Contextual factors are, then, critical in determining how White-ness is defined and, by corollary, how the status of Otherness is defined. Butultimately, these contextual factors point to the persistence of a hierarchicalsystem of preferences that inflects and deflects differences in the interests ofpower.
That aside, the translation of equity and access into the language of culture
ensures that the production and consolidation of group and community-based identities are defined on the basis of an adherence to and practice of
particular cultural traditions. Funding adjudicated on the basis of belong-ing to defined and cohesive cultural groups facilitated the conversion ofloose cultural affinities into bounded and discrete cultural entities irrespec-tive of the reality that cultures are not frozen in time nor homogeneous ininterpretation. Supplementing this externally imposed condition were in-ternal forces which cohered groups into a defensive retreat against the hos-tility and exclusion they experienced from the dominant society. As HimaniBannerji argues:
Things are different with us, that is, non-white immigrants – even if we are
conversant in English or French, which people from South Asia, Africa, andthe Caribbean generally are. With them the process is reversed, since theycome as individual migrants and slowly harden into the institutional formof the community. The reason for this, I am afraid, is not what is inside ofthem, but rather in their skin. Their skin is written upon with colonialdiscourse – which is orientalist and racist. Thus memories, experiences, cus-
toms, languages, and religions of such people become interpreted intoreificatory and often negative cultural types or identities. The political pro-cess of minoritization accompanies this interpretive exercise, and togetherthey lead to the formation of communities. When we speak of “diversity” itis this set of reified and politicized differences that we are invoking, andthey provide the basis for ethnocultural identity and politics of representa-
Communities, then, become a focal point of the policies, despite the real-
ity that these communities are, as Bannerji (2000) reminds us, not naturalconstructions but social constructions mediated out of a necessity to re-spond to particular state policies. In turn, these communities are harnessedby these policies to better serve the status quo and thereby utilized to main-tain a hierarchical racialized structure of power. Such communities are reifiedas embodiments of particular cultural formations even though what theymay be representing is a graft of a culture, specific social classes within thatcultural formation, and particular interpretations of cultural traditions. Pa-triarchal and economic elites maintain the boundaries of these so-calledcultural communities, ensuring compliance and cohesion. However, asBannerji remarks, this is not only a top-down imposition but also a bottom-up response, based on the racism, exclusion, and hostility from the domi-nant society faced by these groups. Within the context of these communities,power is naturalized and rendered normal through the recuperation andreification of tradition.
Bannerji calls our attention to a key element of multiculturalism, namely,
the connection between race and culture. Racialized communities areminoritized and interpreted as primordial cultural entities rather than as
entities formed through state measures. Further, these cultural labels arenot neutral but carry Orientalist and racially inscribed connotations of in-feriority, positioned as they are in opposition to a construction of Westernsociety that represents itself as progressive, emancipatory, and democratic.
Racial differences become encoded as cultural differences, and race itself isculturalized (Razack 1998a). A corollary to this is that Whiteness has noculture, but culture becomes the signifying badge of difference for people ofcolour. Drawing from Essed (1990), Amita Handa (1997) argues that theemphasis on culture evacuates concepts of race and racism, so that culturaltolerance comes to replace the need for racial tolerance (see also Bannerji2000).
To tolerate, as Mirchandani and Tastsoglou (2000) remark, is to “put up
with” and not necessarily to embrace difference. Indeed, Hage (2000) sug-gests that the call for tolerance can be exercised only upon those who areintolerant. In other words, those who need to be tolerant are simply thosewho are capable of being intolerant. Referring to multiculturalism in thecontext of Australia, Hage observes that “multicultural tolerance, like allother tolerance, is not, then, a good policy that happens to be limited inits scope. It is a strategy aimed at reproducing and disguising relationshipsof power in society, or being reproduced through that disguise. It is a form ofsymbolic violence in which a mode of domination is presented as a form ofegalitarianism” (87).
The violence of racism is shrouded by discourses of denial, discourses
predicated on the categorization of racism as something other than what itis; on the tactics of individualization; and the conversion of racial differ-ence into categories that demonize, trivialize, compartmentalize, exoticize,erase, or contain that difference in ways that suit the interests of a domi-nant, hegemonic power. In part, this is achieved through a systemic blanket-ing or “whitewashing” of racist sexism as well as through the use of codedlanguage to refer to racialized differences. Bannerji (2000, 47) summarizes itsuccinctly when she says, “There is not even a language within the state’sredress apparatus to capture or describe the racist sexism towards third worldor non-white women or men.” What language does exist is that which uti-lizes coded signifiers such as “culture,” “diversity,” “tolerance,” “difference,”thereby bracketing any notion of systemic and symbolic violence of raceand racism (see also Karim 1993a, 1993b; Mirchandani and Tastsoglou 2000).
Concomitantly, most discourses on race utilize coded words such as “immi-grant,” “refugee,” “alien,” “terrorist,” and the like to refer to people of colour.
Such words cover up and obfuscate the central defining and regulating rela-tions of power and reify these categories as authentic absolutes against whichthe normative Canadian is implicitly defined as the White, law-abiding,citizen of the nation.
Gendered Racism and Sexist Violence
Within scholarship on gender-based violence, the feminist movement in
Canada has been particularly successful in highlighting the power of sex-
ism as a systemic form of violence underpinning and influencing the lives
of women and girls (Duffy and Momirov 1997; H. Johnson 1996; McKenna
and Larkin 2002). It has in fact succeeded in bringing a subjugated knowl-
edge (women’s experiential realities of violence) to the centre and, through
institutionalized power, legitimizing both this experiential knowledge and
the advocacy it has generated (see Faith 1993; Taylor, Barnsley, and Gold-
smith 1996; Timmins 1995).
Hence, the argument that gender-based violence is made possible by the
ideology of sexism in which women are perceived and treated as less wor-thy than men is more readily and overtly acknowledged within certaindomains (see also Richie 1996). Sexism is recognized as a system of beliefsand attitudes based on the alleged inferiority of women, inferiority thattranslates into attitudes that women cannot be believed, that women areincapable, and that women are inherently subordinate to men (Browne1997; Duffy 1995). Within an institutional framework, sexism translatesinto policies and practices that deter women’s advancement, justify in-equality in wages, and make women vulnerable to violence such as sexualharassment, rape, and murder (DeKeseredy and Kelly 1995; Ferraro 1997;L. Kelly 1987; Lakeman 2000). In the context of the criminal justice sys-tem, sexism is evident and documented in the ways in which women aredisbelieved, have their concerns trivialized or dismissed, and are revictimized(Bonnycastle and Rigakos 1998; Martin and Mosher 1995). As WalterDeKeseredy and Linda MacLeod (1997) have argued, gender-based violenceis sexist violence.3
For racialized women of colour, the exposure to patriarchal structures is
refracted through their positioning in subordinate roles within the largersociety, as well as within their particular communities. This is not simply asituation of a double dose of patriarchy. Rather, how the dominant societyconstructs racialized communities has implications for the gendered dy-namics within communities. Black feminists such as Angela Davis (1983),Patricia Hill Collins (1998, 2000), and bell hooks (1982, 1990), to mentiononly a few, have drawn attention to the complex intersecting and interlock-ing influences that have shaped Black women’s lives in the United States.
Patricia Hill Collins (1998, 919) suggests that “while violence certainly seemscentral to maintaining separate
oppressions – those of race, gender, socialclass, nationality/citizenship status, sexual orientation and age – violencemay be equally important in structuring intersections
among these hierar-chies. Rather than viewing violence primarily as part of distinct social hier-archies of race and gender, violence may serve as the conceptual glue that
binds them together.” If violence is the glue that binds them together, thenhow is violence against racialized women of colour framed and understood?
Intersecting and Interlocking Violence(s)
In contrast to the heightened awareness of sexism as violence, the
intersectionality of racism and sexism, or what Bannerji (2000) has termed
“racist sexism,” has only begun to be uncovered in the same way and with
the same institutional force as has mediated mainstream feminist scholar-
ship (see Razack 2002, 2004). Intersectionality is a key concept navigating
this maze of crosscutting, intertwining, and intermeshing conduits of domi-
nation. As Kimberle Crenshaw (2000, 8) elucidates, intersectionality “ad-
dresses the manner in which racism, patriarchy, class oppression and other
discriminatory systems create background inequalities that structure the
relative positions of women, races, ethnicities, classes and the like” (see also
Crenshaw 1994). However, critical anti-racist feminists have argued that
these social forces – far from remaining as background features – interlock so
that the construction of identity is itself contingent on the particular nexus
of interlocking factors operative in a given context. Sherene Razack (1998a,
13) defines it most clearly when she states: “Interlocking systems need one
another, and in tracing the complex ways in which they help to secure one
another, we learn how women are produced into positions that exist symbi-
otically but hierarchically.”
In part, the difference between the mainstream feminist agenda and the
critical anti-racist perspective on violence has to do with a discourse of de-nial surrounding the acknowledgment of explicit and pervasive racismagainst women of colour within the academy, the women’s movement, andthe wider society. This is achieved through the promotion of a universal-ized category of woman that collapses differences between women.4 In speak-ing to this issue, Linda Carty (1991, 31) comments, “As Black women weexperience our femaleness and Blackness together, always at the same time,and we challenge whether it is possible for white women to be white orfemale because we see them as white and
Spelman (1988) has similarly argued against an essentialist construction
of gender. In a hierarchical society, the power and privilege attached to onelevel is predicated on the lack of power and privilege of those belonging toa lower level (Razack 1998a). For instance, in the plantocracies of the south-ern United States, the status, power, and privilege accorded to the Whitewoman placed her apart from and at a higher level than the Black slavewoman. The chastity, femininity, and purity of the White slave owner’swife contrasted with dominant conceptions of the slave woman as a Jezebelor an Aunt Jemima (Davis 1983; Jewell 1993). The one set of norms raisedthe status of the White woman, while the other inferiorized the slave, a
violent process in and of itself, as well as making her vulnerable to otherkinds of violence and violations. However, the moral regulation of Whitewomen’s bodies was also confining in the sense of limiting their agencyand power, rigidly subordinating them to White patriarchal domination. Incontemporary times, the interlocking structures of power and privilege areevident in the differential use of women of colour as labourers and domes-tics that makes it possible for White women to be employed outside the home(see Arat-Koc 1995; Mohanty 1991b; Ng 1993a). The exploitation of onegroup of women makes the liberation of another group of women possible(Bhattacharyya, Gabriel, and Small 2002). Yet, in the universalizing languageof dominance, all women are seen as being liberated, as all can participatein paid work outside their own homes.
Pointing to Catherine McKinnon’s argument about the traumatic impact
of rape on all women, Angela Harris (1997) demonstrates how, historically,rape against Black women was not even considered rape by the dominantsociety. There were no laws against the rape of Black women, even thoughthe rape or alleged rape of White women often resulted in the lynching ofBlack men. Her analysis demonstrates the unequal application of laws, thedifferential construction of women, and the ways in which the rape andlynching were interrelated. In analyzing these interlocking systems, Harrisoffers an insightful critique of what she describes as the dominance theory,a theory that coheres around the notion of a universal woman. She posits:“First, in the pursuit of the essential feminine, Woman leached of all colorand irrelevant social circumstance, issues of race are bracketed as belongingto a separate and distinct discourse – a process that leaves black women’sselves fragmented beyond recognition. Second, feminist essentialists findthat in removing issues of ‘race’ they have actually only managed to re-move black women – meaning that white women now stand as the epitomeof Woman” (13). She further contends that in ameliorating the essentialistframework, feminists often try to use a “nuanced approach.” In the latter,diverse women’s experiences are recognized, albeit in “footnotes” supple-mental to the main text, and then attributed to a matter of context. Themore problematic aspect of a nuanced approach is that it leaves undisturbedthe central yardstick by which all women’s experiences are measured, namely,the normativity of White women’s experiences.
These critiques are still relevant to much of the work that has been under-
taken on issues of violence against women in Canada. The landmark Cana-dian Panel on Violence against Women (Marshall and Vaillancourt 1993, 7)put forth the following categories to define the kinds of violence that womenand girls experience: physical, sexual, psychological, financial, and spiri-tual. While the panel members were cognizant of the realities of women ofcolour – a reality forcefully brought to their attention by the advocacy of
women of colour to have representation within the panel – the actual rec-ognition of racism as a form of violence, and of the alliances between patri-archal powers within communities of colour and the dominant society,remains a mute observation, confined to those pages of the panel’s reportthat specifically address women of colour (see Chapter 11 of the panel’sreport, “Women of Colour,” in Marshall and Vaillancourt 1993). Ostensi-bly, the panel’s focus was on foregrounding sexist violence so that so-calledbackground inequalities such as racism are not privileged in the same way.
Nevertheless, relegating these systemic inequalities to the backstage onlyreinforces dominant definitions of violence that strategically deflect atten-tion away from how and why such forms of violence are extant in the firstplace, or the forces that sustain their continued power. In other words, byfocusing on some kinds of violence rather than others, the tendency is oneof evacuating an analysis of the power hierarchies that lie at the founda-tions of a racist, sexist society. It conforms to what Harris (1997, 14) de-scribes as the “nuance theory” of gender oppression.
The invisibility of structures of domination is reinforced by announce-
ments pertaining to the declining levels of violent crime, spousal murders,and homicide in general. But the mapping of the terror that results in on-going harassment, racial profiling, deportations, and other structural andcoercive forms of violence designed to keep certain groups and individualsin “their place” receives scant attention in the official documentation ofthe state and is, by and large, unreported in the dominant media. If it is atall made manifest through a few unroutinized interruptions, it is referred toin the language of power – in the dominant discourse – as pertaining to anexception or more likely to the actions of undeserving, overly demanding,hypersensitive, over-reacting, transgressive minorities or their barbaric cul-tures (Razack 2004) that need to be excised from the social body. Instead,the tendency of this dominant discourse is to celebrate conformity by valo-rizing individual will or the innate “cultural” traits of a particular group totranscend barriers by successfully negotiating, surviving, and thriving againstall odds. The latter representation works to neutralize any charge of sys-temic violence or terror and focuses instead on the model minority, as evi-denced in cases of individual success, such as the appointment of a governorgeneral, a member of parliament, a business magnate, and so forth, all ofwhom have “foreign” origins but who have nonetheless transcended theircultural inheritances and climbed up the ladder of power and privilege.
Embracing an intersectional and interlocking framework involves a fur-
ther examination of the ways in which different systems work in concertwith each other to engender particular forms and expressions of violence.
In shifting the focus away from a universalized construction of sexist vio-lence, I do not mean to suggest that racialized women of colour do notexperience gendered violence. Rather, the particular instantiation of such
violence is contextual and relational – it depends on the forces operating ina given historical moment, as well as whether such violence is recognized asviolence, and whether it is privileged as a kind of violence deserving ofsocietal intervention and resolution. This, of course, raises the question asto what kinds of interventions are deemed necessary and by whom.
In delineating the particular vulnerabilities and susceptibilities of differ-
ent groups of women to violence, what stands out are the systemic forms ofviolence at each site where they interconnect and interlock with intimateand interpersonal forms of violence. Factors such as isolation, dependency,marginalization, and stigmatization that are part and parcel of making anindividual or group susceptible to violence are occluded, negated, or erasedin accounts of violence against specific groups of people. Thus, when thegroup or individual constitutes a historically excluded minority, a minoritywhose realities are deeply shaped by structural forces mediated througheveryday exclusion, marginalization, ghettoization, and coercive assimila-tion, the violence of these actions is absented from descriptive accounts,which tend to focus on the cultural peculiarities of these groups, their pre-sumed proclivity to violence, or their “risk” to violence. Such accounts failto take into consideration factors that put these groups at risk in the firstplace and at risk particularly from discursive and material violence exer-cised by the dominant society. How are specific groups of women isolated,impoverished, made dependent, and excluded through racism and sexism?
Situating Women of Colour
In speaking of racialized women of colour, the tendency is often to conflate
their status with immigrant status. Indeed, in the Canadian popular imagi-
nation, most women of colour are defined as immigrants, and as immi-
grants, they occupy a particular range of representations. This conflation
derives in part from the erasure of women of colour in the official histories
of the nation, and in part from the barriers imposed to prevent women of
colour from immigrating to the nation (Agnew 1996; Dua 1999). However,
since the liberalization of immigration laws in 1976, the number of women
of colour who have immigrated has increased. Das Gupta (1999, 191) ob-
serves that “over half the immigrants who arrived in Canada since the 1970s
and three-quarters of those who came in the 1990s are visible minority
members”; these numbers indicate that traditional and preferred source
countries of immigrants have dried up.
One consequence of this link with immigration has been the continual
identification of women of colour as perpetual outsiders to the nation. DasGupta notes that
in everyday discourse, the phrase [“immigrant women”] is used interchange-ably with the phrase “women of colour” by most Canadians, whether they
are “of colour” or “White.” This particular usage is underlaid with a notionof who a “Canadian” is or what a “Canadian looks like.” The implication isthat a Canadian is White, middle or upper class and Anglo or Francophone.
Anybody who deviates from this stereotype – someone who is a person of
colour, has a non-dominant accent, wears a “different” dress or headgear,coupled with a working class occupation – would be referred to as “immi-grant” or non-Canadian, even though they may be holding Canadian citi-zenship. (1999, 190)
I deal with the implications and entrenched nature of this association inChapter 5. Here, I wish to underline this association given its slippage intoresearch dealing with race, gender, and violence. Existing Canadian studiesfocusing on racialized women of colour and their experiences of violencehave tended to focus on them as immigrant women. This stems from thefact that many high-profile cases have involved immigrant women and thatcommunity-based advocacy and service organizations have mobilized aroundthe issue of immigrant status in order to address the lack of available ser-vices for women of colour who have experienced violence (Agnew 1996,1998; Dosanjh, Deo, and Sidhu 1994; Razack 1998a). This focus on immi-grant origins is particularly evident in studies concentrating on specific andcultural forms of violence exhibited by women from racialized immigrantcommunities.
Thus, in contrast to the universal construction of gendered violence, which
erases all differences between women or confines them to a footnote, thissecond and related perspective heightens differences between women, lo-cating these differences in the realm of culture. In both cases, however, theaccentuation and levelling of difference functions strategically to under-score White superiority and power (see, for instance, Lorde 1983). UmaNarayan provides a succinct analysis of this latter cultural approach whenshe states:
In thinking about issues of “violence against Third-World women” that“cross borders” into Western national contexts, it strikes me that phenom-ena that seem “Different,” “Alien,” and “Other” cross these borders with
considerably more frequency than problems that seem “similar” to thosethat affect mainstream Western women. Thus, clitorodectomy and infibu-lation have become virtually an “icon” of “African women’s problems” inWestern contexts, while a host of other “more familiar” problems that dif-ferent groups of African women face are held up at the border. In a similarvein, the abandonment and infanticide of female infants appears to be the
one gender issue pertaining to China that receives coverage. These issuesthen become “common topics” for academics and feminists, and also crossover to a larger public audience that becomes “familiar” with these issues. It
is difficult not to conclude that there is a premium on “Third-World differ-ence” that results in greater interest being accorded to those issues thatseem strikingly “different” from those affecting mainstream Western women.
The iconic representation of specific forms of violence is, then, just as prob-lematic as an approach that erases all differences. But here, in particulariz-ing these kinds of violence as endemic of Other cultures, the implicitassumption is that the gendered violence of “our” culture (read North Ameri-can culture) is more legitimate because it is normalized and less apparent.
However, in the enhanced recognition of difference, acts of violence areconstrued as signs of the peculiarities of Other cultural traditions, peculiari-ties that reflect the traditional, barbaric, and inferior constructions of thecultures of Others.
Bordering the Nation, Bordering Communities
When the terrain is sexual violence, racism and sexism interlockin particularly nasty ways. These two systems operate througheach other so that sexual violence, as well as women’s narrativesof resistance to sexual violence, cannot be understood outside ofcolonialism and today’s ongoing racism and genocide. Whenwomen from marginalized communities speak out about sexualviolence, we are naming something infinitely broader than whatmen do to women within our communities, an interlockinganalysis that has most often been articulated by Aboriginalwomen.
– Sherene Razack, Looking White People in the Eye
As I have maintained elsewhere (Jiwani 2005c), part of the problem of speak-ing about violence against women of colour is the racialization of thesecommunities as deviant, traditional, backward, and inherently oppressive(see Chapter 6). Thus, to speak about violence is, as Flynn and Crawford(1998) have argued, to commit “race treason”; it is to betray “racial loyalty”(Richie 1996). Indeed, the fallout of stereotypes of immigrant communitiesas violence-prone has been one of silencing women from within these com-munities (Bannerji 2000). In a call to break the silence, Angela Davis (2000,2) has consistently argued that “we must also learn how to oppose the racistfixation on people of colour as the primary perpetrators of violence, includ-ing domestic and sexual violence, and at the same time to fiercely challengethe real violence that men of colour inflict on women.” This is a difficulttask, particularly given the social climate, in which calling attention to abuse
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