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Rinaldo Walcott is a Black Canadian academic and writer. Currently, he is the Director of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto. He was employed as an associate professor at OISE/University of Toronto in the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education. He was an assistant professor in the Division of Humanities at York University in 2000. Walcott's work focuses on Black Studies, Canadian Studies, Cultural Studies, Queer Theory and Gender Theory, and Diaspora Studies. He is the Canada Research Chair of Social Justice and Cultural Studies.
Walcott's work recognizes that "articulating Canadian blackness is difficult not because of the small number of us trying to take the tentative steps towards writing it, but rather because of the ways in which so many of us are nearly always preoccupied with elsewhere and very seldom with here". In this comment, Walcott highlights the dearth of Black Canadians writing about Black Canadian experiences and expressions, and points to his further assertion that a belief that "something important happens here [in Canada]" is a necessary precursor to increasing the scholarly engagement with Black Canadian experiences and expressions. Walcott's explicit engagement with Blackness in Canada and Canadian experiences of Black themes therefore represent foundational work in these areas. The uniqueness of Walcott's scholarship is also connected to his analysis of popular culture as it relates to issues of race, gender, sexuality, and nationality.
Walcott has published several books and articles spanning many issues concerning Blackness in Canada. His work draws on a variety of sources in order to address these issues including the poetry of Dionne Brand, George Elliot Clarke, and M. Nourbese Philip; the rap of Maestro Fresh Wes, Devon, and the Dream Warriors; films such as Clement Virgo's Rude and Stephen Williams' Soul Survivor and Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine; and other aspects of popular culture including critical attention paid to the opening theme for the television show Fresh Prince of Belair.
Walcott published Black Like Who? in 1997, coming out of research related to his PhD studies which focused on, in Walcott's own words, "questions of popular culture and exploring how rap music in the early 1990s was emerging as an important social and political force across North America". The collection of essays in Black Like Who? expand this inquiry into areas such as poetry, literature, diasporic studies, film criticism and other discussions central to issues surrounding Black space, place, and landscape in Canada. This text gained notoriety in both academic and mainstream communities.
In 2000 Walcott edited a compilation of essays under the title Rude: Contemporary Black Canadian Cultural Criticism. In his Introduction to this text, Walcott calls these essays "rebellious" and "insubordinate," explaining that they seek to "complicate and push the boundaries of racial designation, but also the boundaries of the academic responses to Blackness within Canada". Walcott further explains that the insubordination of these essays is directed at the "official narrative discourses of the nation-state of Canada". This type of nation-state challenging work is characteristic of Walcott's academic presence, which typically emphasizes boundary crossings (metaphorical and literal) in both form and content.
In addition to these two texts, Walcott has several books awaiting publication, has provided many chapters in books and has published articles in a variety of sources. Sources for a selection of these articles and chapters, as well as information about forthcoming publications can be found in the "Selected Sources" section below. Additionally, Walcott has appeared on the TVO programs The Agenda and Flying Solo (links below) and has an interview and a conference presentation available for viewing on YouTube (links below).
In his own words, Walcott's work "insist[s] that the rhizomatic black cultures of Canada have much to teach us, especially about national policies like multiculturalism, which support identity politics and limit political imaginings and possibilities". Walcott's work is therefore important in its engagement with Black Canadian identity, but also in its insistence on the transnational, border-crossing, nature of many Black identities.
Border crossing is also essential to Walcott's work as he does not limit himself in terms of subject matter, theories, or areas of study. Walcott has engaged with film and music critique, official political narratives and legislative policies (such as Multiculturalism), queer and gender studies (particularly examining the tensions surrounding Black masculinities, and queer Black identities), poetry and literature analysis, and historical biographies. Despite the breadth of his work, concepts of Blackness, culture, and nationhood are constants in his analysis, though the ways in which these are examined are far from static.
Walcott's work has been cited, extended and critically engaged by scholars such as Eva Mackey, in her book The House of Difference, Omise'eke Natasha Tinsley in the article "Black Atlantic, Queer Atlantic: Queer Imaginings of the Middle Passage" published in GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, (Volume 14, Number 2–3, 2008), Surbhi Malik in "'UK is Finished; India's too Corrupt; Anyone can become Amrikan': Interrogating Itineraries of Power in Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice" in the Journal of Creative Communications (2007; 2; 79), Brian Wilson and Robert Sparkes' Impacts of Black Athlete Media Portrayals on Canadian Youth in the Canadian Journal of Communication (Vol. 24, No. 4, 1999), and Linda Peake and Brian Ray's Racializing the Canadian landscape: whiteness, uneven geographies and social justice in the Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe Canadien (Volume 45, Issue 1).
- Surviving the Crossing: Studies in the Work of Austin C. Clarke. Toronto: Guernica Press (contract negotiated, manuscript under preparation).
- Forthcoming, Walcott, R., Disturbing the Peace: The Impossible Dream of Black Canadian Studies. Toronto: UT Press (contract under negotiation, manuscript finished).
- Forthcoming, ReCrossings: Languages of the Middle Passage. Missouri: University of Missouri Press (contract under negotiation, manuscript partially completed).
- Forthcoming, Black Queer Diaspora: Reading from a Queer Place in Diaspora (still under discussion with two different publishers, manuscript still in preparation).
- 2003, Black Like Who?: Writing Black Canada (Toronto: Insomniac Press). [Second Revised Edition]
- 2000, Rude: Contemporary Black Canadian Cultural Criticism [editor] (Toronto: Insomniac Press).
- 1997, Black Like Who?: Writing Black Canada (Toronto: Insomniac Press).
- Chapters in books
- Forthcoming, "The Sight of Sound: The Last Angel of History". In S. Lord and J. Marchessault (eds). Fluid Screens: Digital Time and Cinema. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
- In press, "Caribbean Pop Culture in Canada; Or the Impossibility of Belonging to the Nation". In J. Mannette (ed.), The Presence of Absence: Reconceptualizing the Canadian Nation. Nova Scotia: Fernwood Press. [Reprinted from Small Axe: A Journal of Caribbean Criticism.]
- In press, "Outside in Black Studies: Reading from a Queer Place in Diaspora". In P. Johnson and M. Henderson (eds). Black Queer Studies in the New Millennium. Duke University Press.
- (2004), "'A Tough Geography': Towards A poetics of Black Space(s) in Canada". In C. Sugars (ed.), Unhomely States: Theorizing English-Canadian Postcolonialism. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press.
- (2004), "Beyond the 'nation thing': Black Studies, Cultural Studies and Diaspora Discourse (Or the Post-Black Studies Moment)". In C. Boyce Davies and M. Gadsby (eds). African New-World Studies: Diaspora Theory Decolonizing the Academy in the 21st Century. Africa World Press.
- (2003), “’but I don’t want to talk about that’: Postcolonial and Black Diaspora Histories in Video Art”. In U. Biemann (ed.). Stuff It: The Video Essay in the Digital Age. Zurich and New York: Edition Voldemeer and Springer Wien New York.
- 2003, "The Struggle for Happiness: Commodified Black Masculinities and Vernacular Cultures". In P. Trifonas (ed.), Pedagogies of Difference: Rethinking Education for Social Justice. New York: RoutledgeFalmer.
- 2002, "'It's My Nature': The Discourse of Experience and Black Canadian Music". In J. Sloniowski and J. Nicks (eds), Slippery Pastimes: A Canadian Popular Culture Reader. Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
- Articles in refereed journals
- (Forthcoming), "Reading Traces: C.L.R. James, Austin C. Clarke and a Pedagogy for Black Futures". Présence Africaine.
- (Forthcoming), “Dramatic Instabilities: Diasporic Aesthetics as a Question for and about Nation”. Canadian Theatre Review.
- (2001), "Caribbean Pop Culture in Canada; Or the Impossibility of Belonging to the Nation". Small Axe: A Journal of Caribbean Criticism. 9, pp. 123–139.
- (2000), "At The Full and Change of Canlit: An Interview with Dionne Brand". Canadian Women’s Studies. 20, 2, pp. 22–26.
- (2000), "'Who is she and what is she to you?': Mary Anne Shadd Cary and the Impossibility of Black/Canadian Studies". Atlantis: A Women's Studies Journal. 24, 2, pp. 137–146.
- (1999), "Rhetorics of Blackness, Rhetorics of Belonging: The Politics of Representation in Black Expressive Culture in Canada". Canadian Review of American Studies, 29, 2, pp. 1–24.
- (1998), "Deceived: The Unreadability of the O.J. Simpson Case". Review Essay of Birth of a Nation'Hood: Gaze, Script, and Spectacle in the O.J. Simpson Case. Canadian Review of American Studies, 28, 2, pp. 177–188.
- (1997), "'A Tough Geography': Towards a Poetics of Black Space(s) in Canada." North: New African Canadian Writing, WestCoast Line, 22, 31, 1, pp. 38–51.
- (1997), "Songs/Sounds of Postmodern Blackness: Histories. Cultures. Youth." Educational Researcher, 26, 2, pp. 35–38.
- (1995), "'Out of the Kumbla': Toni Morrison's Jazz and Pedagogical Answerability." Cultural Studies, 9, 2, pp. 312–331.
- (1994), "Pedagogical Desire and the Crisis of Knowledge." Discourse: The Australian Journal of Educational Studies, 15,1, October, pp. 64–74.
- (1992), "Theorizing Anti-Racist Education: Decentering White Supremacy in Education." In S. P. Sharma, ed., The Western Canadian Anthropologist, 7, 1,2, pp. 109–120.
- (2000), "At The Full and Change of Canlit: An Interview with Dionne Brand", Canadian Women’s Studies, 20, 2, pp. 22–26.
- Walcott, Rinaldo. Black Like Who? Toronto: Insomniac Press, 1997, pp. xiii–xiv.
- Walcott, Black Like Who? (1997), p. xiv.
- Walcott, Rinaldo. "'No Language is Neutral': The Politics of Performativity in M. Nourbese Philip's and Dionne Brand's Poetry." In Rinaldo Walcott. Black Like Who? Toronto: Insomniac Press, 1997.
- Walcott, Rinaldo. "‘A Tough Geography’: Towards a Poetics of Black Space(s) in Canada". In Sugars, Cynthia, ed. Unhomely States: Theorizing English-Canadian Postcolonialism. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2004, pp. 277–288.
- Walcott, Rinaldo. "Keep on Movin'": Rap, Black Atlantic Identities and the Problem of Nation." In Rinaldo Walcott. Black Like Who? Toronto: Insomniac Press, 1997.
- Walcott, Rinaldo. "'It's My Nature': The Discourse of Experience and Black Canadian Music." In Nicks, Joan and Jeannette Sloniowski, eds. Slippery Pastimes: Reading the Popular in Canadian Culture. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2002, pp. 263–278.
- Walcott, Rinaldo. "The Politics of Third Cinema in Canada: Reading the Narrative of Clement Virgo's Rude". In Rinaldo Walcott. Black Like Who? Toronto: Insomniac Press, 1997.
- Rinaldo Walcott, "Bowl Me Over, Michael Moore", rabble.ca, December 19, 2002.
- Walcott, Rinaldo. "The Struggle for Happiness: Commodified Black Masculinities, Vernacular Culture, and Homoerotic Desires". In Trifonas, Peter Pericles, ed. Pedagogies of Difference: Rethinking Education for Social Change. New York: RoutledgeFalmer, 2003, pp. 138–154.
- Althea Blackburn-Evans, "The Cultural Explorer: Rinaldo Walcott seeks new definitions of Canadian culture", Edge, Fall 2003, Vol. 4, No. 2.
- Walcott, Rinaldo, ed. Rude: Contemporary Black Canadian Cultural Criticism. Toronto: Insomniac Press, 2000, pp. 7, 10.
- Walcott, ed. Rude: Contemporary Black Canadian Cultural Criticism (2000), p. 7.
- Walcott, Rinaldo. "'Going to the North'": The Limit of Black Diasporic Discourse(s)". In Rinaldo Walcott. Black Like Who? Toronto: Insomniac Press, 1997.
- Walcott, Rinaldo. "The Politics of Third Cinema in Canada: Reading the Narrative of Clement Virgo's Rude". In Rinaldo Walcott. Black Like Who? Toronto, Insomniac Press, 1997, p. 55.
- Mackey, Eva, The House of Difference: Cultural politics and national identity in Canada, Toronto: Routledge, 1999.
- Tinsley, Natasha Omise'eke, "Black Atlantic, Queer Atlantic: Queer Imaginings of the Middle Passage". In GLQ: Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. 14:2–3, 2008, pp. 191–215.
- Malik, Surbhi, "'UK is Finished; India's too Corrupt; Anyone can become Amrikan': Interrogating Itineraries of Power in Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice". In the Journal of Creative Communications. 2:1&2, 2007, pp. 79–100.
- Wilson, Brian and Robert Sparkes. Impacts of Black Athlete Media Portrayals on Canadian Youth. In Canadian Journal of Communication. 24:4, 1999.
- Peake, Linda and Brian Ray. Racializing the Canadian landscape: whiteness, uneven geographies and social justice. In the Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe Canadien, 45:1, pp. 180–186.
- Article outlining Rinaldo Walcott's academic history and recent work
- Faculty Page with link to selected works including conferences and invited talks
- Rinaldo Walcott discusses language use, masculinity and the Black image in the media and sports. Warning: Offensive Language
- Rinaldo Walcott presents his paper "Reconstructing Manhood or the Drag of Black Masculinity" at the conference Reconstructing Womanhood: A Future Beyond Empire at Columbia University 2003
- Insomanic Press author page for Rinaldo Walcott
- Rinaldo Walcott on TVO's "The Agenda" discussing the significance of the election of President Obama for Black Canadians, originally aired November 5th 2008
- Rinaldo Walcott on TVO's "Flying Solo" discussing the term and idea of "Post-Racism", originally aired on August 13, 2008
- Rinaldo Walcott discusses the symbolism of President Obama's election and its implications for Canada's policies of multiculturalism
- Rinaldo Walcott writes about Michael Moore's film "Bowling for Columbine" and its portrayal of Canada as a gun and ghetto free safe haven