by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
This can’t be real, can it?
According to Misao Dean, Professor of English at the University of Victoria, the canoe can be a symbol of colonialism, imperialism and genocide due to history. She also accused the canoers of cultural appropriation because they are primarily white men and have a privileged place in society.
It can be, and I posit that the state of academic inquiry, such as it is, into the ever-ever-ever-expanding field of colonialism, imperialism, genocide, privilege, and cultural appropriation makes it so.
I see it as a corollary to the moribund study of actual literature. As I wrote back in 2004:
At the same time, as their peers in other disciplines, literature professors in modern academe need tenure, and tenure decisions rely in no small part on a professor’s publications (the “publish or perish” quandary). Old, formerly “great” texts such as the works of Shakespeare, Chaucer and Milton have existed and been written about for centuries. It seems there is little to nothing “new” a literature professor can bring to illuminate these texts, unless one applies the extratextual analyses described above. Meanwhile, there is a rapidly evolving selection of pop-culture “texts” to analyze, with the novelty of the “text” selection and the analysis tending to help secure publication. Furthermore, it’s easier to “read” and respond to elements within one’s own culture, helping to speed chances of publication along.
Four hundred years of Shakespeare scholarship have fairly well exhausted the chances of any new scholar discovering something new. By my days as an undergraduate, they were arguing (as one of my professors did) such unsupported nonsense as King Lear molested his daughters before the play began.
Meanwhile, the easy scholarship of pan-racism beckoned, and who could pan a theory of any thing evincing racism without inviting the charge of racism on his own head? The heap of things discovered to reek of racism, genocide, etc., grew like the great garbage heaps in Idiocracy.
Naturally, all the more “obvious” things were taken years ago. But should a scholar repeat or create? That leaves only benign things to be “discovered” and decried as awful symbols of racism, genocide, what-have-you.
Like frigging canoes.