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SOCI 3430
Michael Nijhawan

SOCI 3430 – Ethnicity, Power & Identity Documentary Report: Race & Race Relations Discussion & Analysis of “Speakers for the Dead” & “Does ‘Race’ Matter?” Linda Tran | 207971914 Professor Michael Nijhawan Wednesday, October 10 , 2012l 3 SOCI 3430 – Ethnicity, Power & Identity 2 Linda Tran | 207971419 Module One: Introduction and Synopsis of the Film - “Speakers for the Dead” Introduction By taking a sociological approach to the analysis of the video “Speakers for the Dead”, a film by Jennifer Holness and David Sutherland, this study guide aims to further explore and understand several key concepts and ideas that have been highlighted. This study guide will be broken down into 3 sections: a synopsis of the film, further analysis of key concepts that are interlinked between the film and the supplementary reading by Miles and Torres entitled “Does „Race‟ Matter” and finally a breakdown of a group activity that will further highlight and question the notion of race, racism and racialization. The objective of this study guide is to engage the readers into questioning ones‟ discourse and understanding of race and how effective Holness and Sutherland‟s documentary is at displaying critical elements of these concepts to their viewers. Synopsis of the Film - “Speakers for the Dead” This documentary follows the small town of Priceville, Ontario in their excavation of a Black cemetery that reveals the hidden history of the Black community in Canada during the 1930‟s that was largely ignored in Canada. The beginning of this documentary attempts to repaint the discourse of Canadian history and the social construction of our understanding of Canada‟s nation-building past. During 1930‟s in Priceville, a farmer destroyed the final evidence of the presence of Black residents by clearing out a Black cemetery to make way for a potato patch. Fast forward to the 1980‟s, the traces of Black presences soon began to surface around the town of Priceville. Efforts by locals to locate and preserve the historic headstones aroused both SOCI 3430 – Ethnicity, Power & Identity 3 Linda Tran | 207971419 opposition and excitement within the community. Descendants of the original settlers of both races joined hands to excavate and restore the cemetery. With the discovery of 4 tombstones, the realities of a dark and racist past surfaced in Priceville resulting in the uncovering of historical racial tensions and discrimination. The history of Black Ontarians started to unfold that were filled with segregation, denial of land, racism and discrimination. From denial of land for the Black soldiers that fought on the side of the loyalist in the War of 1812 to handing over their property to Irish immigrants, the experiences of these Black Ontarians were filled with inequality and oftentimes violence. With the excavation of the ceremony came stories and allegations of destruction, racial segregation and family secrets. As a result, it continued to place the current ancestors of these Black Ontarians in a space of continuous racial tension and dislocation. The cinematography and visual representations found within this documentary also reflects the struggles and hardships Black Ontarians faced during the late 19 century to early th 20 century. Images of this population were often blurred that were associated with a lack of identity. Their faces constantly were covered as they seem to walk endlessly through an empty forest. These images depicted the Black Ontarians as a faceless mass that had no sense of belonging and ownership. In addition of these images, an eerie soundtrack would play in the background every time there was a historical flashback. This further showcase that this certain population was mysterious and dangerous. Images found within this documentary also displayed power relations. The Black Ontarians were often shown in rags whereas the white settlers were shown in clean clothes holding guns and being the protector of Canadian identity. Flashes of fire symbolizes the destruction of the Black residents and their homes, it also visually represents the violence this population endured. Not only did the images in this documentary symbolized and/or reflected the dark and hidden past of Priceville, the language and expression used also SOCI 3430 – Ethnicity, Power & Identity 4 Linda Tran | 207971419 solidified the ideas of segregation and racism. Two descendants of Priceville‟s former Black residents were interviewed in this documentary. Their voices were often quiet, like they were hushing to the viewers a deep, dark secret. In one scene, Helen turns to Alan and says “Go ahead dear because I don‟t remember how”. Just this statement alone showcases to the viewers that the historical stories of the Black Ontarians have been hidden for so long, it no longer held any importance in society. Overall, the structure of the documentary was to ultimately grasp the viewer‟s attention. By using images and stories to evoke emotional intensity, viewers are left hanging and questioning what else could Canada be hiding? SOCI 3430 – Ethnicity, Power & Identity 5 Linda Tran | 207971419 Module Two: Conceptual Analysis To further understand the concepts that are discussed and displayed in the documentary “Speakers for the Dead”, a closer examination of Miles and Torres‟ article “Does „Race‟ Matter?” will help conceptualize key components of race and race relations. By breaking down these concepts and interlinking them with the documentary, we will be able to take a sociological approach in understanding and analysing the social and political influences that produced the racism and discrimination that was endured by the Black Ontarians. It‟s important to note the differences between these two types of media outlets. Although both have strong themes regarding race and racism, they both take a different approach in explaining and displaying the race relations between the “black” population and the “white” population. In the documentary “Speakers for the Dead”, it‟s clear to the viewers that race played a rather huge role in the segregation and discrimination of the Black population. It also highlighted that the drive behind these acts were solely based on skin colour. However, by connecting this video with Miles and Torres‟ article, it provides the reader with a more complex view on the idea of race. By highlighting the historical and social influence involved in the construction of race, readers are able to fully grasp the multi-dimensional and complexity of race and race relations. Race & Race Relation Paradigm The concept of race has been discussed in great lengths in the realms of both human biology and the social science community. The conceptualization of this concept has transformed over time strictly from biological classification tool into a socially constructed phenomenon. For social scientists, race is a social constructed tool in which our society uses to comprehend and SOCI 3430 – Ethnicity, Power & Identity 6 Linda Tran | 207971419 categorize their social world. The idea of race has historically been
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