The Great White North: Qualitative Interviews with Retired Professional Players on Race and Hockey in Canada. Canadian Sociological Association Conference, Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities. June 1, 2017
In the last five decades, Canada has increasingly – and officially – come to perform a multicultural identity in large part because of the cultural capital this identity has engendered in an era of globalization and the legitimacy it confers to a nation founded on a colonial history and reliant upon a current political economy significantly underwritten by officially-sanctioned racialized migrant labour. Yet, at its core, Canadian identity remains hegemonically white. This is only laid bare in contexts where the stakes of identity are highest and most personal, such as the national pastime, hockey. In the world of professional and semi-professional hockey in Canada, there is little space multicultural discourse, because there is little space for non-white subjects of any kind. Canadian hockey is an arena for the unapologetically naked rehearsal of hegemonic whiteness that persists at the heart of Canadian national identity. In this presentation, I draw on interview testimony from a larger project in which I conducted semi-structured interviews with eight former professional hockey players who participated in a range of levels of professional hockey, from the U.K. to the North American minor leagues to the NHL. All identified as Canadian and currently reside in Canada. An examination of this testimony reveals that racism is both ubiquitous and unacknowledged in Canadian hockey culture, for in the Canadian national imaginary, hockey exists as an essentially white realm. Indeed, the putative racial purity of hockey metonymically comes to represent the pristine whiteness at the core of Canadian national identity itself, beneath the pragmatic veneer of multiculturalism. To acknowledge racism, then, would be to concede that heterogeneity and structural inequality exist within the Canadian nation, a concession that would compromise the legitimacy and sanctity of the nation as imagined.
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Canadian Sociological Association Conference, Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities
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