|Articles, Canada, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2015-08-09 05:34Z by Steven|
The Toronto Star
Eric Andrew-Gee, Staff Reporter
Hyphenated identities — Ukrainian-Canadian, Somali-Canadian and the like — have played an outsized if ambiguous role in Canada.
He has described them, variously, as “a boundary post,” “a chain,” “a bridge,” “a knot,” and “a floating magic carpet.”
In his work, hyphens do more than glue surnames together and solder on prefixes. They are also skeletons of the self — giving shape to, among other things, Wah’s own Scottish-Irish-Chinese-Swedish-Saskatchewanian heritage.
It’s not a coincidence that one of Canada’s most distinguished writers of verse would concentrate so much creative power on the humble punctuation mark: hyphens have played an outsize, if ambiguous, role in the history of identity in this country.
They have acted as a knot — sometimes securing, sometimes restricting — and their meaning has mutated over time, from boundary post to bridge, first marking people out, then connecting worlds.
Along the way, the hyphen has budded into a kind of metaphor for what we think it means to be Canadian.
American political culture, with its melting pot ideal, has long been hostile to multiple, punctuated identities. Then-U.S. President Woodrow Wilson described them as tantamount to treason, using his own vivid metaphor, in a 1919 speech:
“And I want to say — I cannot say it too often — any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready.”…
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