Constructing My Cultural Identity

Topics: Black people, African American, Afro-Latin American Pages: 18 (6012 words) Published: March 29, 2014
The Alberta Journal of Educational Research

Vol. 54, No. 3, Fall 2008, 272-282

Erica Neegan
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto

Constructing My Cultural Identity: A Reflection
on the Contradictions, Dilemmas, and Reality
This article provides a critical reflective analysis of my life growing up in Jamaica where I attended colonial school, to making the transition to high school in the Canadian context. I examine the elements that have influenced my cultural/racial identity as a person of African ancestry living in the diaspora. I ask questions such as how has colonial education influenced my cultural identity and how I see myself? I address the complexity of my racial and gender identity drawing on a Black feminist theoretical framework and anticolonial thought to inform this work.

Cet article présente une analyse critique et réfléchie de mon enfance en Jamaïque, où j’ai étudié à une école coloniale, et de ma transition vers l’école secondaire au Canada. Je me penche sur les éléments qui ont influencé mon identité culturelle/raciale comme personne d’ascendance africaine vivant dans la diaspora. Je pose des questions portant sur l’influence de l’éducation coloniale sur mon identité culturelle et ma façon de me voir. Ce travail repose sur le cadre théorique du féminisme noir, ainsi que sur la pensée anticoloniale.

The purpose of this article is to examine the forces that have shaped my identity as a child of the African diaspora, first growing up in the Caribbean and then the encounter between my Jamaican culture and the Canadian cultural context. I attempt to address the following questions: How has my identity been formed? What parts of my life have been honored, and what parts are excluded and why? How does society view me versus my own definition of myself? And more important, how can I salvage and maintain my identity? I critically draw on the reality, dilemmas, and contradictions of life that show my struggle to negotiate my identity and self-awareness as an individual of African ancestry in the Jamaican and later the Canadian education system. The discussion in this article is informed by a Black feminist standpoint. I believe that theorizing from a Black feminist discursive framework helps me to tell my story and rethink my experiences in a paradigm that takes into account the social dimensions of race, class, gender, sexuality, and other forms of domination. In addition, I employ an anticolonial framework, as this emphasizes the potency of racism, colonization, and imperialism on diasporic peoples and their identity (Dei, 2002).

My Discursive Framework
As mentioned above, this article takes a Black feminist standpoint in accordance with the perspective of a Black heterosexual woman living in Canada. It is an approach—a framework—from which one can challenge systems of Erica Neegan is a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto. Her research interest includes Indigenous Knowledges, Black feminist thought and anti-colonial and decolonizing pedagogy.


Constructing My Cultural Identity

domination in society. A Black feminist discourse helps me to tell my story and reclaim my identity as a Black woman. As Wane (2002) notes in her definition of Black feminist thought,
Black feminist thought is a theoretical tool meant to elucidate and analyze the historical, social and economic relationships of women of African descent as the basis for development of a liberatory praxis … It can be applied to situate Black women’s past and present experiences that are grounded in their multiple oppressions. (p. 38)

Black feminism has provided a space and a framework for the expression of Black women’s diverse identities. I believe that Black Canadian feminist thought is informed by practice and vice versa. In other words, my lived realities inform theory and help me to make sense of what is going on around me. Black Canadian feminist theory, then, becomes a...

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