Samah Affan

Project Title: (2013) Ethical Gestures: Articulations of Black Life in Montreal's 1960s. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

Thesis Link: http://spectrum.library.concordia.ca/977124/

This thesis traces articulations of black diasporic politics and practices in Montreal’s 1960s as they revolve around two particular events that took place in the city, the Congress of Black Writers in 1968 and the Sir George Williams Affair in 1969. Though it has relevance for studies in black Canadian history, black left and grassroots activism and diaspora studies broadly, this project is above all a theoretical exploration into the overlapping realms of ethics and politics. This interdisciplinary project draws on a variety of oral and written sources to trace the political, social, and performative tenors of memory-work that underwrite collective and individual narratives unfolding before this historical backdrop. Chapter one looks at the promise of democracy as a single problem-space that attracted the attention of black activists of various stripes, the university administration and federal police; the contested political arena in which they made their respective claims is also a moral arena in which ethical modes of being and dissenting were reproduced and countered. Using oral history interviews with six female Black Canadian and Caribbean women, chapters two and three highlight the politics of moral memories. The emphasis on politics as intimately bound to everyday practices and lived experiences points to ways of reading this history that might be overlooked otherwise. Ultimately, this research aims not to champion any one vision of black liberation but to offer a periscope into the ways black narrators made and make life livable.

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