Abstract: The past two decades have seen the dramatic emergence and, according to some accounts, the seeming rise to dominance of settler colonial studies across a broad range of disciplines. As an approach has become a field, and has perhaps become institutionalised, a series of critiques and debates has prompted both revision and rearticulation. This special issue reflects on the current state of what might now be called the ‘field’ of settler colonial studies. It showcases new directions in scholarship in North America and Australia, regions which have been pivotal in the articulation of settler colonialism as a distinct political, territorial, and epistemological phenomenon.

Most narratives of the development of settler colonial studies suggest that it emerged first in Australia and (to some extent) New Zealand before spreading roughly to Hawaii and Israel/Palestine and eventually to Europe and North America. It was only with this last move that its status as a major new scholarly intervention was confirmed. As Penelope Edmonds and Jane Carey explain, in the 1990s ‘a range of scholars began to view the singular category of “colonialism” as too blunt a tool’. They began to argue that colonies where the settlers ‘came to stay’ were distinctive colonial formations with specific dynamics that required separate interrogation. In short: settler colonial studies began as a response to the perceived limitations of postcolonial theory. Where the ‘post’ in postcolonialism refers to the ongoing effects of colonial rule in states that have been formally decolonised, settler colonial studies consider those political and geographic contexts in which the colonisers never left. This scholarly position emerged through Black and Indigenous criticism. A key aim of this special issue is to return this context to current assessments of the field.

Abstract: This thesis addresses the identities of ‘white settlers’ who chose to stay in Kenya and Zambia after independence from British rule. By focusing on these racially and materially privileged minority groups this thesis unearths the ways in which racial identities have been formed and contested, in contexts in which whiteness has been inescapably historically charged. By analysing both Kenya and Zambia the thesis breaks new ground in comparing the postcolonial history of a settler colony and an African protectorate. In doing so it raises questions about the categorisations of ‘settler’ and the notion of being ‘settled’, as well as taking on the difficult label of ‘white African’ and its contested use in postcolonial Africa. This research draws upon settler colonial history in Africa and contemporary whiteness studies. As such the thesis represents a social history of decolonisation and a history of a contemporary phenomenon, whites with a colonial heritage searching for belonging and legitimacy in postcolonial contexts which invalidate their history. The thesis traces the legacies of settler colonial rule through the spatial, sensorial, linguistic and temporal dimensions of whites’ postcolonial lives. Research participants all drew upon a personal colonial lineage which connected their families to the longer colonial history of Kenya and Zambia. They represented a group of people whose life experiences mapped onto the historical ‘period’ of decolonisation. The timeframe of the thesis – from the mid-1950s to 2017 – utilises a periodisation which transcends the bounds of colonialism and postcolonialism, and as a result is able to assess continuity and change in how racial identity and privilege was constructed and reconfigured. The thesis’ originality lies not only in its comparative study of under-researched postcolonial whites, but in its synthesis of whiteness studies, settler colonial history, postcolonial history, the history of emotions and senses, and oral history.

Description: How taking Indigenous sovereignty seriously can help dismantle the structural racism encountered by other people of color in the United States 

Settler Colonialism, Race, and the Law provides a timely analysis of structural racism at the intersection of law and colonialism. Noting the grim racial realities still confronting communities of color, and how they have not been alleviated by constitutional guarantees of equal protection, this book suggests that settler colonial theory provides a more coherent understanding of what causes and what can help remediate racial disparities. 

Saito attributes the origins and persistence of racialized inequities in the United States to the prerogatives asserted by its predominantly Angloamerican colonizers to appropriate Indigenous lands and resources, to profit from the labor of voluntary and involuntary migrants, and to ensure that all people of color remain “in their place.” 

By providing a functional analysis that links disparate forms of oppression, this book makes the case for the oft-cited proposition that racial justice is indivisible, focusing particularly on the importance of acknowledging and contesting the continued colonization of Indigenous peoples and lands. Settler Colonialism, Race, and the Law concludes that rather than relying on promises of formal equality, we will more effectively dismantle structural racism in America by envisioning what the right of all peoples to self-determination means in a settler colonial state.

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