The African Ancestry: Diverse Identities, Histories, and Ways of Knowing
The African Ancestry: Diverse identities, histories, and ways of knowing
People of African descent are often seen as a monolithic group boxed in the category ‘Black’ in Canadian academic and public discourse. The homogenization of the minority by the majority is noted to be part of an ‘othering process’ that legitimizes stereotypes and rationalizes discrimination (Mensah 2014; Tanovich 2006; Wortley and Tanner 2004). The paper will demonstrate the diverse identities, histories, and ways of knowing of those who live in British Columbia and trace their ancestry to Africa, and offer insight on how those identities are formed and transformed.
Research was conducted through a survey completed by 162 people as well as through 18 interviews and 5 focus group discussions. Analysis of survey data informed the line of inquiry through interviews and focus discussions. Reflexive thematic analysis was adopted with an emphasis on contextualizing meanings where the authors used their cultural membership and social positioning in the interpretation. The authors take the role of storytellers grounded in data, informed by scholarly knowledge and the intersectionality framework.
Preliminary findings indicate that the identities and way of knowing of people of African descent are very diverse and they morph as they intersect with other embodied identities. Identities expressed by participants drew from their connection to the Africa continent, the history of slavery, the generational connection to Canada, migration experiences, and ‘othering’ experiences in Canada. The Black identity is embraced as a societal construct whose utility is more practical than defining.
Alice Muthoni Murage and Ketty Anyeko, African Ancestry Project
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