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"Bodies on the Move": Spatialized

Locations, Identities, and Nationality

in International Work
Narda Razack
Transformations of space, place, and environment are neither neutral
nor innocent with respect to practices of domination and control. Indeed
they are fundamental framing decisionsreplete with multiple possibilitiesthat govern the conditions (often oppressive) over how lives can be
lived. Such issues cannot be left unaddressed in struggles for liberation
(Harvey, 1996: 44).
First, whiteness has the ability to move; second, the ability to move results
in the unmarking of the body. In contrast, blackness is signified through a
marking and is always static and immobilizing (Mohanram, 1999: 4-5).


international work to illustrate how the self is constituted in spaces abroad.

The analysis is underpinned by thefindingsof a research study of the experiences of Canadian social work faculty and students, who went to a "developing"
country to conduct research, collaborate on projects, and fulfill practica course
requirements.' Experiences include the voices of white and minority students.
Faculty collaborations abroad are not new areas for exploration and analysis
(Kobayashi, 1994). However, in the context of a new era of globalization, and
given the increase in international activity within the sphere of global capitalism,
differential analyses are warranted. We appear to be plunging headlong into more
international commitments and not stopping to fully analyze the effects.^ Institutions
have displayed an urgency to respond to the impact of transnational corporations
on the state. Some responses to globalization take the form of vigorous moves to
internationalize the university. The message is clearly stated in this directive from
a report from one university:
NARDA RAZACK is an Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director in the School of Social
Work, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada, M3J 1P3 (e-a>ail: Her areas
of research include critical international social work, North-South relations, postcoloniality, the
Caribbean diaspora, and critical race theory, research, and practice. She has published in the areas of
race and oppression, pedagogy of diversity, and international social work. Recent publications include
Transforming the Field: Critical Antiracist and Anti-Oppressive Perspectives for the Human Services
Practicum (Femwood, 2002).

Social Justice Vol. 32, No. 4 (2005)




urgent ground exists to take concerted action that will allow us to make
the most of opportunities which are presenting themselves in an increasingly competitive environment.... Our report therefore is a call not to
rest on its laurels but to think afresh. It is an opportunity for all sectors
of the community to work collaboratively both internally and externally
to effect changes [to] be a leader in international academic affairs (York
University, 2000: 1).
The response includes seeking research funds and organizing collaborative
projects and partnership ventures with a host of international partners, which has
increased faculty collaborations abroad. Schools of social work across Canada have
organized international practica as requests for placements in Southern countries
have increased. Placements are organized on an ad hoc basis in most schools of
social work, with the lack of a supporting infrastructure resulting at times in a form
of "professional imperialism," since there is little attempt to ensure reciprocity and
to analyze these North-South experiences (Razack, N., 2002). Since social work
treads the well-worn path of imperialism, an analysis of these work-abroad initiatives is all the more urgent (Gray, 2005).
The discussion begins with a twofold theoretical exploration of space. First,
I relate how spaces are imagined and how identity is produced in and through
spaces at home and abroad; second, I illustrate how white and minority bodies are
viewed differently in Northern and Southern spaces. Mohanram (1999) describes
the significance of movement for white and black bodies in terms of their racial
and spatial attributes. She states that "place and landscape are not inert, but things
which actively participate in the identity formation of the individual" (p. xii). Space
is therefore central to the formation of racial identity.
Next, I examine how notions of identity and nationality become more acutely
present when conducting work in an international setting. International work translates into travel from one territory or place to another, but also involves a host of
relational meanings and explorations of the self and the body politic. I examine
how identity is constructed in these travels and illustrate the struggles for minority students and faculty who travel alongside their white counterparts. Given the
complexities of international work, I close with critical insights into the struggles
inherent in it so that we can avoid sustaining hegemony in North-South encounters.
I also argue that the experiences abroad can lead to a new imperative for students
and faculty to recognize and attend to the nuances of how race and identity shape
the professional encounter. Such learning can enhance domestic practice.
The Research Study
The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the experiences of Canadian
white and minority academics and students who went to a developing country for

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research and practicum. My rationale for focusing on Northerners going to developing countries extends earlier research I conducted that critically examined the
North-South international practicum in my own school (see Razack, N., 2002). I
noticed the binary of how subtly dominant/subordinate positions are produced.
Moreover, as an academic committed to transformative practice, I felt the timing
for further research on this topic was critical because of the increased attention to
internationalization in universities.
Selecting the Sample
Ten schools of social work across Canada were represented among the 14 faculty members interviewed. Four of the faculty members organized international
placements within their respective schools. I avoided naming minority faculty
participants because there are not many in Canadian schools of social work, and,
with such a narrow focus on international work, confidentiality could be easily
breached. Eighteen students were interviewed and represented six schools. These
schools were chosen because they have attempted to organize international practica.
However, all the participants shared an ambivalence abouttheir school's commitment
to international social work. Most of the students I interviewed had completed an
international placement in the last one to three years. Of the 18 students, 10 were
white and eight identified themselves as nonwhite. In this article, minority refers
to students who are considered nonwhite.
The faculty administrators at one school assisted me in organizing a focus
group of eight students who went abroad with faculty supervisors for a two-week
educational program. Participants traveled to Latin America, Asia, Africa, and
the Caribbean; some faculty paid frequent visits to the same country, since one
project led to others. Interviews lasted approximately two hours. I began by asking
the participants to reflect on why they wanted to go abroad and what they hoped
to gain from this journey. I also asked about their images of the host country and
the realities upon arrival. Further questions allowed me to examine their relationships with the local people, their status in the host country, and differences they
encountered while abroad, especially concerning race, whiteness, and identity. I
begin by spatializing the journey.
Understanding Spatialized Locations in International Work
Why does "space" matter to the international discourse? Canada is a settler
society with a history of genocide and colonization.-^ Spatial theory helps us to
understand how Aboriginal, black, and other populations have been spatially ordered
and contained, and illustrates how colonization is always a spatial project. I wish
to connect space and subjectivity by examining how dominant and subordinate
identities are produced. For example, how do Northerners, in leaving the space
of settler society, position themselves in colonized space in the South? I use the



works of Lefebvre (1976), Soja (1996), Sherene Razack (2002), and Mohanram
(1999) to explain some underpinnings of spatial theory."*
We are taught that everything occurs in time and is distinctly historical. Therefore, all our actions are located temporally and historically. Lefebvre (1991: 129)
argues that there is also a spatial dimension to social and historical realties:
The study of space offers an answer according to which the social relations
of production have a social existence to the extent that they have a spatial
existence; they project themselves into a space, becoming inscribed there,
and in the process producing the space itself. Failing this, these relations
would remain in the realm of "pure" abstractionthat is to say, in the
realm of representations and hence of ideology.
Soja (1996:46), picking up on Lefebvre's arguments, appeals for a "similar action-oriented and politicized ontology and epistemology for space: that'everything'
also occurs in space, not merely incidentally, but as a vital part of lived experience,
as part of the (social) production of (social) space, the construction of individual
and societal spatialities." All our social relations and interactions become real and
concrete "when they are spatially 'inscribed'that is, concretely representedin
the social production of social space" {Ibid.; emphasis added).
Other theorists have examined the relations of colonialism and race to space
(Mohanram, 1999; S. Razack, 2002). Sherene Razack argues that a theory of
space recognizes that the dominant notion of space as innocent does not allow
for an understanding of the dialectical relationship between spaces and bodies, in
which some are marked as degenerate and others as bourgeois (2002: 9). Brown
and black bodies predominantly inhabit the degenerate spaces. These arguments
are crucial to international work, since the white participants in this study come to
claim space and ties to nations in ways that differ distinctly from those of participants of color. Racial identity is tied to landscape, and notions of race are part of
a discourse about the nation. In this study, the participants told particular stories
about how their ties to country, notions of citizenship, ideas of global citizenry,
and bodies were shaped by their experiences abroad. These stories are spatialized
since they illustrate the abstract and concrete experiences of space. In going abroad,
participants become marked by the spaces they occupy, by how they come to know
themselves in this space, as well as by what is produced within that space in terms
of relational practices.
These theoretical constructs will allow us to pay attention to how Northern
travelers are located in privileged space in comparison to many in the South. When
traveling abroad, how do Northerners imagine the space from which they come and
the space to which they go in the South in terms of power, privilege, knowledge,
dominance, and subordination? Are they aware of their implication in the production of racialized spaces at home and abroad? How do international social workers.

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minority and non-minority, constitute themselves in Southern space, and how does
their Northern privilege unfold in the experience?
Occupying Spaces Abroad
From tourism to the marketing of novels, the manifestation of culture
reminds us that the imperial division between a secure, stable "us" and an
inferior, unstable, exploitable "them" no longer applies. This postcolonial
order is one characterized by fluidity and hybridity, a cultural crisscrossing,
what has been referred to as the "in-between" (Murray, 1997: 4).
Many participants reported being keenly aware that they were entering a space
marred by poverty and political upheavals, but the possibility of experiencing
complications or conflict in the country of destination generally did not concern
them unduly. Upon arrival, they all became immediately aware of their privileged
status in the South. However, the conditions under which the manifestations of
privilege and oppression occur in postcolonial societies are far more complex and
subtle than those in the colonial era, where there was a definitive colonizer and
colonized. Postcolonial subjects are struggling to decolonize their minds and societies, and postcolonial epistemology stresses "a common heritage of oppression
and subsequent decolonization, of the struggle for the right to produce, rather than
consume, images of self and the local" (Murray, 1997: 9).^ In the host country,
the participants occupied space in the "Third World," which is viewed as not as
good as the "First World" from which they originated. These realities did not affect
their initial hopes to learn from the racialized "other" and to work in a diflFerent
cultural environment.
Occupying Space Abroad: Participants of Color
Even upon arrival, many of the white subjects were apparently treated differently than the minority participants were. The nonwhite participants immediately
noted the power of whiteness in the South. According to one minority participant,
"if you are white coming to a placement, you had more privilege from the beginning"; another noted that white people were treated with privilege immediately
upon arrival. She described a scene at the airport, where she was treated like an
African and therefore categorized: "I just lost it and he said to me, if I'm African
and I said no, I'm from Canada, and he made the general announcement, she is
Canadian and then they were going to serve me."
The living spaces also proved to be challenging. Many participants of color
experienced discomfort with their living arrangements for a variety of reasons. One
minority student was expecting to stay with a family to experience the culture and
the country more intimately, but ended up in a guesthouse and felt lonely. After
realizing the impoverished living conditions of many of the volunteers in her
workplace, she struggled to find a balance in her way of life: "And so going there



[the workplace] and then going home and in this nice place and having whatever
I want to eat, and having this really comfortable, nice room and you know it was
a contradiction."
This student struggled to bridge the gap between her Northern privilege and
the poverty of the people with whom she worked in her host countrypeople
with whom she felt she shared a history of colonization. Another minority student
worked with a foreign agency and lived austerely in a dormitory. Her clients and
friends constantly told her that she should not be taking the bus since her co-workers
were well-paid Northerners and they were "constantly kidding me about that." Yet
another minority participant spoke of clear distinctions in the living arrangements.
Rooms for the foreign workers were air conditioned, but those elsewhere in the
building, where the locals lived, were not. Meals were also prepared separately
and the dining area was divided.
There was a clear division, and actually I respected it. But it was funny,
because when I was by myself, they were fine about me sitting there because I blended in, again, whereas someone else who was maybe white
were told, no, you should go over there.
When this student, who was of similar ethno-racial and cultural background,
tried to mix with the local clients, she encountered resistance from herfellow foreign
workers. These differences created a new awareness for the participants of color as
they realized that even in Southern space, where they are in the majority, they had
to struggle tofindtheir own space. These contradictions allowed the participants of
color to forge ahead to create a positive workspace in which to form relationships.
Differences in the way that white and nonwhite participants were treated does not
suggest that the white participants did not have struggles. The participants of color
were clearer in their goals to eliminate as many barriers as possible and were more
cautious not to create or perpetuate binaries of dominant/superior position, since
this was their reality in their home country, Canada.
Occupying Space: White ParticipantsFacing Cultural Differences
Upon arrival, many white students felt like aliens in their environment. However,
these feelings were short lived as they became more attuned to their environment
and came to realize that whiteness signified superiority and privileged status. Some
white participants even yearned to have a "warm glow to their complexion," that
is, to become more like the "other," while others indicated that they "came alive"
in the South. Some initially appeared oblivious to the complexities of forging relationships with the local people, but soon realized how ignorant they were about
culture and the customs relating to race.
Many white participants lived under conditions that differed starkly from those
of their local colleagues. They appeared to be more protected than the nonwhite

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participants, and the local people observed this special treatment. One white student
shared the following:
I think they were apprehensive of me; my supervisor would not let me go
anywhere alone.... She always sent a driver with me and I know that my
colleagues were wondering, why do I get a drive in? There was this feeling
of being different from my colleagues and being treated more special.
In a residence where another white student lived, the way in which men and
women related to each other was clearly demarcated. She confessed to being
unaware of these cultural norms and went out with the men alone, creating angst
among local students, especially the women. These students ostracized her and she
claimed to be unaware that her behavior led to negative feelings.
I was the only white person to be seen and that was commented on a lot....
They were all guys that took me actually took me a while before
I could actually talk to them (the other students); they weren't especially
friendly.... Yes, that took me a while to establish any kind of rapport.
Really strange, really nervousit felt like a few months was going to be
incredibly long.
She had completed a placement abroad before this practicum. In that country,
she felt like a minority and believed the local people were against white people.
This student was unable to understand that others may have maligned her because
she behaved as a privileged, white Northerner, who was acting out a colonizing
role in her interaction with the local people. After sharing her frustrations with local students, she realized the gaps in awareness of cultural differences, especially
relating to gender. When people from differently ordered spaces from the North and
the South meet, there are consequences. According to Pratt (1992: 6), this space
of colonial encounters, the "contact zone," is one "in which peoples geographically and historically separated come into contact with each other and establish
ongoing relations, usually involving conditions of coercion, radical inequality, and
intractable conflict." This student undoubtedly experienced conflict in her contact
with the racialized other, and like other participants, was constituted in and by her
relations with the other.
Living conditions were sites of learning for some white students as some
ventured out of their quarters to experience them firsthand within the community.
They were invited to spend time with the local people, their colleagues, and their
families. This opportunity to experience how the "other" lived provided insights
into the culture and also allowed local people to view them as equals, rather than
the colonial masters of the past. Such efforts can produce a humbling of the spirit
by witnessing how the "other" lives, but the scenarios they described helped to
sustain images of the white bourgeois subject, since their privilege would remain



intact after the experience. Thus, the natives were on display. This white student
gave the following account of a stay with a local family:
I lived with them for a weekend without electricity, without running water.
That was when I really felt I experienced how they live and I thought, it's
like camping.... I can handle it for three days, but I thought, this is how
they live and this is fine. This is what they know.
This sojourn into the "townships" to experience and witness the lifestyle of the
people reassured her that the native people were comfortable in their environment
and she got over feeling sorry for them, since they really "did not know any better." She equates the living conditions of the people in the township to "camping,"
generally a summer holiday tradition of many in Canada, where "roughing it" is
associated with a spirit of freedom and getting in touch with nature. These utterances therefore unequivocally state that the participant could not live like them;
however, they are used to these conditions and therefore "they did not know any
better." Privileged people easily explain away the plight of the poor by rationalizing
and managing their feelings when confronted with poverty. Such rationalization
makes it easier for the student to "other" the local people and to relegate them to
almost subhuman status. According to Goldberg (2000: 155), "the spaces of the
Otherthecolonies, plantations, reservations...the villages and townships...become
the laboratory in which these epistemological constructs may be tested...."
Other whites deliberately chose to live austerely like the natives, which begs
the question: Did they believe that by "going native" they could level the playing
You know I lived in the camp; I slept in worse conditions than refugees
in some cases. I ate there. I just did everything. I was what they call, you
know, almost went, what's the word, natural or whatever, you know.
This participant wanted to be like the "other," to experience their living conditions, but with a specific goal, to verify authenticity in her research. In the previous
example, living like a privileged white had its problems. In this example, living
like the natives also had its problems. It appears that these efforts, while allowing
the foreigner to taste a bit of degenerate living conditions, also helped to deepen
the divide between the privileged Northerner who can move in and out of privilege
and degenerate living conditions. These situations indicate that living space can
become sites for domination and subordination, as these arrangements can deepen
the binaries of rich and poor, bad and good, squalid and posh, and dominant and
Students in the focus group stayed in more austere quarters and felt extreme
culture shock as they noted the contradictions between their consumer culture at
home and the situation of many in the host country. They became emotionally

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unsettled by the poverty they witnessed all around them and continually referred
to themselves as privileged in comparison with the local people. Living conditions
abroad allow students to become more attuned to their lifestyle at home and, while
in the moment, they become quite concerned about their own consumerism and
Occupying Space: The Faculty
Some faculty members spoke of living in very sophisticated quarters. They
recognized that such upper-class accommodations were unavailable to them in the
North and out of the realm of possibility for many in the South. Many appeared to be
innocent of their role in sustaining hegemony in the South in their role as academic
faculty. One faculty member described her upper-class living conditions without
dismay or concern for the contradictions inherent in these arrangements.
We were living like our colleagues, not the people we were attempting
to serve. We actually lived in an upper-class neighborhood, so the people
we interacted with socially were not at our social level. Like we were
often invited to parties that a minister might be giving, so we had a little
experience of being a prince...some of our colleagues came from wellestablished families.
The local academics came from privileged backgrounds, but still held the white
Northern academic in esteem, because they viewed them as the experts.
Another white academic discussed her living conditions in apologetic terms,
but ultimately appreciated the luxury because of safety issues.
Again, I'm going to use that word embarrassment...for safety sake they
put me in what I call tourist town, and so that was a bit of an embarrassment. I had, I guess, by their standard all the luxuries, but each day the
blacks that I would first see would be the chambermaids and the guards
around the hotel, and beach guards.... By the time I walked my eight to
ten blocks to get public transportation, then I re-entered the world where
I was the only white. I would have much preferred to live in a neighborhood where I had an opportunity to have more interaction, but I also
appreciated safety.
This participant clearly felt the divisions and wanted to live differently, but also
appreciated that her living quarters were luxurious "by their standards." These differences in residential quarters set up a hierarchy for the foreign worker, with the
status accorded white skin color elevating them in the eyes of the inhabitants. Some
of the white faculty, like the white and nonwhite students, indicated struggles with
living arrangements and wished to eliminate barriers by trying to live like the local
people. Although some lived in rather meager quarters, they sensed that they were



still better off than the average native. The above participant experienced contradictions such as being in the house of the governor in the morning and later "having
dinner in a shack with all kinds of people peeking in the window because they are
so excited. I hadn't thought of it until afterward, but I would be as a dignitary."
Such experiences were more common to white participants, whose skin color
distinguished them. These distinctions were sometimes more problematic for the
students of color, especially when they observed how the local people elevated
the white subject. It is noteworthy how identities are produced in living spaces.
In these situations, can white bodies become disembodied in the South in the way
that bodies of color are disembodied in both the North and South? Despite efforts
to narrow the divide by living like a Southerner, their privilege and status remained
unchanged. Minority participants in this study struggled to define their status in the
South. Spivak (1999:79) notes that postcolonial academics in the West are always
conscious of their minority status, especially after having recognized themselves
as tokens of the entire Third World and as "affirmative action alibis." I am conscious that I appear to depict the white subject solely as refashioning colonizing
behaviors and minority participants as non-colonizers. The minority participant is
also privileged as a Northerner. My point is to illustrate how Northern imaginings
of the "other," and the behaviors, experiences, and learning from going abroad are
firmly rooted in history, as well as how history continues to shape and influence
North-South relations.
Nationality and Identity
My examination of how participants occupied spaces while abroad revealed
commonalties in the experiences of white and nonwhite participants and distinct
differences in power and privilege. I now explore how the dialectic of race and
whiteness, nationality and identity coalesce to produce complex relations in this
journey to learn. According to Hill Collins (1998), our ties to the nation vary according to where one is placed on the racial hierarchy. Social locations of race
and culture sharply affect one's images and feelings about nationality, and these
lead to ongoing debates on identity and citizenship. The minority participants who
came from postcolonial territory to inhabit settler-state society are relegated to the
margins. Lewis (2(X)0: 262) describes the state as a geopolitical and administrative
"settlement," which has two elements. The first is the legal and political authority
to assign citizenship and the second is the imagined community in which there is
cultural belonging, forms of inclusion and exclusion. When ethnicity and culture
are subsumed under "something called the national," the national stands for the
majority, and "those defined as 'ethnic' are defined as the 'other' and 'minority'"
{Ibid.: 263). Minority participants keenly felt this reality, especially when they
visited a place where they were in the majority, but had no ties culturally through
ancestry. They had to process their reactions to the people and their environment,
as well as the people's response to their bodies of color in the South.

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The contradictions and tensions produced from whiteness became evident in

the stories of many of the participants, including those of the minority participants,
who were overwhelmed with the degree to which whiteness operated as a sign of
superiority in the South. According to Lipsitz (1998: 1), although whiteness is
everywhere in the North, it is especially difficult for white people to see. Many
of the white participants had not considered how whiteness might affect them in
formerly colonized spaces. They generally had not read the abundant literature
on this topic.^ Perhaps this unfamiliarity stemmed from their uneasiness with the
subject of whiteness, which like race and racism, produces tensions and anxieties
when discussed because it forces recognition of privilege and dominance and has
a bearing on how one is positioned abroad.
Many of the minority participants had recenUy immigrated to Canada or
descended from immigrants who live and work in the North and carry specific
remnants of a postcolonial culture (this, in and of itself, contains contradictory
and shifting meanings). Immigrants have been pivotal to the building of Canadian
society and Canada has become a more dynamic and vibrant society because of
immigrants (Fleras and Elliott, 2000: 252). They possess the rights to citizenship
and the right to be different, due to our multicultural policy. However, nonwhite
immigrants that fail to blend into white societal norms encounter prejudice, discrimination, and racism in all sectors of society (Ibid.). These feelings hold true
for the offspring of immigrants bom in Canada. Nationality, therefore, when taken
up by minorities in the North, differs from that of most white immigrants, whose
claim to Northern space is more "authentic." Notions of nationality and citizenship
are further disrupted when minority people visit postcolonial sites.
Ambivalence and Identity: Participants of Color
Some of the nonwhite participants discussed their disconnectedness from
Canada, their country of residence, and felt they occupied an "in-between space."
A minority student grappled with her emotions when she realized she was returning
to a space she had fled as a refugee a few years earlier. She recognized changes in
the country and recounted the similarities she still shared with the local people. In
this journey, she realized that she could never identify as a Canadian:
I looked like them [the local people]. I was not different. I also had the
same culture.... I am Iranian. I never consider myself Canadian because I
don't belong to the culture. I just came here because I had to. I live here.
I belong everywhere; that it is not just one country I belong to.
These feelings of belonging and not belonging became acute for the minority participants in their travels abroad. A minority student stated that claiming an
identity, claiming space, have been difficult:
it has been a difficult journey to understand and assume an identity that



has been forged by racism, alienation, resistance, and change. I find it

exasperating to continually explain that all Canadians are not white and
then to be totally ignored with the determined question of "Where are
your parents from?"
People of color, even if they are birth citizens in a country dominated by whites,
will never feel an absolute sense of belonging because of their racially marginalized status. Continually haunting them at home and abroad is the question: Where
are you from?^
Like these nonwhite subjects. Rath (2000: 23) describes himself as being in
this "Third Space" as a naturalized U.S. citizen bom in India. For him, being an
American is a spatial identity, which is a "constructed domicile
exchange for my willingness to accept the subject-hood of the sovereign nation
called the United States." Bhabha (1994: 2) uses the concept of "Third Space"
to describe diasporic identity and notes that individual experiences are part of
the larger processes of historical change. He states that "it is in the emergence of
the intersticesthe overlap and displacement of domains of differencethat the
intersubjective and collective experiences of nationness, community interest, or
cultural values are negotiated." Some minority participants questioned their mixed
feelings of being a naturalized citizen in a country that marginalizes them. For
example, one minority participant illustrated how traveling abroad exacerbated
her fragile sense of Canadian identity:
When I am in another country, I do become more nationalistic. I identify
as a Canadian and find myself having to justify my citizenship to curious
travellers and at border crossings. I have to prepare myself to explain why
I see myself as a Canadian first before Japanese.
This student indicated that being abroad heightened issues around nationality
for her. Feeling compelled to assert her identity as a Canadian, she felt she became
"more nationalistic." The need to "justify" her citizenship as Canadian for those
abroad is due to the global imaginary of a Canadian as white; in the eyes of the
local people, she did not fit that image. She constructs for herself a hierarchical,
hyphenated status (in Canada she is seen as Japanese-Canadian), claiming to be
"Canadian first before Japanese." Such hyphenated statuses construct the minority
as outside the national discourse. For Spivak (1999), home for people in the margins
stands for a safe place where there is no need to explain oneself to outsiders, as
well as for community. Media images and national myths are quite potent, since
many local people who had not visited the North had clear visions of who fit the
body of a Canadianand it was not the nonwhite visitor. These revelations became
emotionally significant for some nonwhite participants, one of whom stated:
It is really hard to put my head around it [identity]. The youth wanted to

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know if I identified myself as a Black person. Acceptance was definitely

mixed, some of it was acceptance and some of it was I was an outsider.
Other minority participants who discussed their national identity did not claim
to be Canadian first. Some of them became more fervently attached to a hyphenated
identity and/or more keenly aware of how they were connected to their country of
origin. Another minority participant related her feelings when in the South:
One of the things that surprised me, though, is that I went there thinking
of myself as Canadian, but I found that in Africa I got further a feel that
I was Jamaican first and Canadian second.
The process she described passed through stages: she claimed one status, then
another, and finally concluded that even though she lived in the North, she was
Jamaican first and Canadian second. According to Mahtani (2002: 78), hyphenation produces "spaces of distance and complicates questions of national identity."
One can claim a Canadian identity, be a Canadian citizen, and also be positioned
outside of the nation because of being racialized in particular ways. Many of the
participants of color were ambivalent about claiming Canadian nationality because
of their knowledge and experiences of racism. They preferred a hyphenated national
identity because they are scripted as different by their ethnicity, and spatialized
differently on Canadian soil from whites of British ancestry who are the principal
ones able to claim Canadian identity as an unmarked category. Notions of nation,
nationality, and citizenship can produce difficulties, especially when race is taken
into account.
Reflecting on the Experiences: The White Participants
According to Bhabha (1990: 11), "the essence of a nation is that all individuals
have many things in common, and also that they have forgotten many things." A
white participant was indignant for having to apologize for being a Canadian and
for being seen as belonging to a white nation. How she constructs herself within
the nation of Canada conforms to the colonial imaginary of who belongs to Canada
and indicates how easy it is to forget historical relations of power. Her exasperation showed when she described her life of privilege in comparison to those in the
South and felt she had to justify her status:
Of course, you feel guilty, you know, for a while. You know a lot of people
there tell me you can'tfeel guilty because you were born in North America.
It is just/are of the gods that we were born here and they were bom there.
You can't help but really feeling guilty and also feeling a little bit annoyed,
saying, well, it is not just white people (emphasis added).
The participant is annoyed for having to apologize for being white and believes



her privileged status and the suffering of the people from the host country result
from the "fate of the gods." She fails to see the causal role of global disparities of
wealth and resources in creating such imbalances. Nor does she fully grasp how
the North, where she resides, is implicated in the inequities in the South. There is
complete denial of our implication in each other's histories and realities. Bhabha
believes that forgetting is crucial to the creation of a nation, since inquiries into
history reveal the violence that helped to construct a particular nation; we therefore
realize who benefits from these consequences. In Canada, the Aboriginal people
inhabited the land before Europeans arrived, but have been made persona non grata
in their own country. For the construction of Canada as a country of tolerance and
liberality, it has been necessary to forget the violent history of the Europeans, who
performed acts of conquest and genocide to forge the nation in their own likeness
and being.
While abroad, the political implications of one's identification with a nation
emerged. A white, male participant stated it was far better to identify as a Canadian
than as an American because of mixed responses to the power and hegemony of
the U.S. He stated that:
Canada is viewed in fairly high regard in many places and certainly I
found that...once they found out that I wasn't American, that seemed to
break down some of the barriers right away.
Another white participant described how her travels abroad led her to a more
conscious awareness of her Canadian identity:
I never really thought of my Canadian identity until I traveled abroad and
I was able to question who I was, the expectations around me, and the
lifestyle I lived. I didn't recognize my Canadian identity until I was able
to remove myself from it and experience a life and culture that I was unaccustomed to. My travels helped me refiect on who I was as an individual.
On a national level, I identify myself as a Canadian.
These identifications with nation distinguished how white and nonwhite
participants processed their journey abroad and the profound impact the journey
had on their national identity. Some of the white participants in this study spoke
emotionally about how nationalistic feelings emerged during their travels to the
South. Going abroad caused the participants to refiect on their nationality and
citizenship. Two white participants initially experienced mixed feelings about their
Canadian identity. Yet later they were "roused," as Bhabha notes above, to claim
their Canadian identity:
I was realizing how much of me was Canadian and I think not apologizing
for that so much anymore.

"Bodies on the Move "


I can't separate who I am from where I come from. I am embedded in my

history and in my society as much as other people.
In contrast, two minority participants living in the North recounted their mixed
feelings about being Canadian:
I never consider myself Canadian because I don't belong to that culture.
I have an identity and I know where I am. Internally, definitely, but external
acceptance is definitely more there [than in Canada].
In this study, the feelings of nonwhite participants of being an insider and
outsider to the nation are significant for their claims to nationality. Kaplan (1997:
28) argues that "discourses of nation and nationality impact on race." Nationalism
can be linked to forms of patriotism that emerge in times of national crisis. The
September 11 terrorist attacks created a crisis of identity for many people in the U.S.
Some minority group members felt compelled to proclaim their sense of patriotism
by pledging allegiance to the American nation. These groups, already marginalized
by dominant society, were also aware that they would be under extensive surveillance in the aftermath of these attacks and felt that they had to show their support
for the country in which they reside.^
A postcolonial world calls for powerful re-imaginings of nation, as people
from formerly colonized societies move to white settler societies and colonial
metropoles. These shifts disrupt the taken-for-granted forms of nation, and new
theories and reconceptualizations of nation are required (Murray, 1997:12). Minority participants felt that their presence in the host country sharpened within them
feelings of alienation from the country in which they reside. These feelings were
exacerbated when they witnessed how their white colleagues received preferential
treatment abroad and how racism and imperialism operated within the spheres of
international social work.
Professional Imperialism and Social Work
International work has intensified in the era of globalization. Global and political
unrest, weather-related disasters, and ongoing economic struggles in many countries
affect the migratory patterns of emigrants, refugees, and displaced persons. These
global and local issues demand new consciousness and more informed responses.
This is especially true for social workers, who work with the disenfranchised in
society. Some view going abroad as one way to responsibly address global problems.
However, doing so principally to gain cross-cultural skills can reproduce Northern
superiority and sustain "professional hegemony," regardless ofthe participants' desire
for social justice and equity. In this study, such hegemonic behaviors troubled the
participants "even as [these behaviors] continue to be second nature to them" (Pratt,



1992: 15). There is an innocence of their implication in these global inequities, and
how they are constituted in and by their relations with each other (Ibid.: 7).
Many social workers share the ideals of global justice and human rights, which
they seek to promote in their work and in their pursuits abroad. Some are more
conscious of the limitations of their subject positions in local and global space. The
power and privilege of whiteness in Southern space can interfere with their original
intent to practice global justice and human rights. Many of the participants agreed
that racism and imperialism are inherent in the internationalization process.
For the participants of color, visiting or revisiting colonized space unsettled
their relations to nation, nationality, and citizenship. Their identity did not become
as secured as that of white participants, who ultimately claimed ties to their nation
of residence and citizenship. For minority participants, citizenship is inscribed on
paper, but not fully in their minds. Further research is needed on the experiences of
minority participants who leave a Northern space, where they are marginalized, to
a Southern space, where they form the majority. Development work and research
in the South have been the domain of white Northerners and the literature confirms
their stronghold on this area. However, the terrain for work is shifting, as more
minority Northerners are pursuing work abroad. Given the complexities inherent
in going abroad for teaching, research, and practica, it is imperative for the profession to make concerted efforts to respond to many of the dilemmas noted in these
international pursuits. This is the ongoing task for international work.
1. See N. Razack (2004).
2. Gillespie (2003) examines the pitfalls and paradoxes of eross-cultural exchange in the postcolonial era, in which research collaborations and programs for international study abroad, as well as
through virtual means, are being explored and established.
3. Aboriginal people still experience a colonial style of administration, since those in power
decide on their rights and forms of entitlement. See Lawrence (2002).
4. Soja's analysis of "Thirdspace" and S. Razack's "Unmapping of a White Settler Society"
rely heavily on the groundbreaking works of Henri Lefebvre's The Production of Space (1991) and
"Reflections on the Politics of Space" (1976: 31). Lefebvre argues forcefully for a triple dialectic: the
linking of historicality and sociality with spatiality. He proposed that the concept of social space includes
mental and physical space, containing the social relations of prcxiuction and reproduction, Lefebvre
(1991:7,39) identified three elements in the production of space: perceived, conceived, and lived. See
Mohanram (1999) for examinations of how space/landscape is critical to the construction of identity,
5. See Bhabha (1994), Mani (1998), and Suleri (1992) for further readings on decolonization
and postcoloniality.
6. See Roediger (1994), Lipsitz (1998), and Frankenberg (2000,1997) for various discussions on
how white people profit from whiteness, how superiority is maintained by claiming that they are colorless and cultureless, and becoming consciousness of being white and recognizing the many unearned
privileges they have in society,
7. See Agnew (2003) for an exploration of this question, which is repeatedly asked of nonwhite

"Bodies on the Move"


8. Inderpal Grewal, keynote speech"Analysisof Post-September 11th," Critical Race Scholarship

Conference. OISE/University of Toronto, April 2002,

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