Canons have real-world effects. When I first talked about teaching Māori literature in an English department in New Zealand, a number of people questioned whether there would be enough writing to justify a whole course, let alone a whole job. This assumption is not accidental – it grows out of a colonial view that Indigenous cultures are non-literate (evidence of our inferiority), as well as a colonial presumption to know everything about Indigenous people (“if there were any other good Māori writers out there I would know about them, so I will assume they don’t exist”), and is nourished by the overwhelming whiteness of New Zealand literary culture, publishing, cultural infrastructure and book prizes.
(Excerpted from an essay, Canons don’t only belong to dead white Englishmen. We have a Māori canon too, by Alice Te Punga Somerville)