emily macgillivray on history textbooks and the logic of the canadian settler state


Emily Macgillivray, ‘Red and Black Blood: Teaching the Logic of the Canadian Settler State’. MA Thesis. (Queens University: Toronto, 2011).

I examine Ontario history textbooks to demonstrate how the portrayal of the white settler fantasy of Canada being peacefully colonized and settled is enforced through the temporality and geography of the Canadian settler state, leading to the erasure of connections between indigenous and black communities in the development of the settler state. The temporality of the settler state is enforced through the Indian Act and the Multiculturalism Act, which work together to deny shared time between indigenous peoples, black peoples, and settlers. Settlers are positioned as inhabiting the here and now as reflected in the temporality of the modern settler state, while indigenous peoples are consigned to a status of primitivity, and black peoples are positioned as hailing from a primitive place, yet recently arriving in Canada. The temporality of the Indian Act is represented geographically through the reserve system, which works within the Indian Act to replace indigenous sovereignty and nationhood with Indian Bands, while the temporality of the Multiculturalism Act is represented geographically through the image of Canada as a cultural mosaic, which enforces the divide-and-conquer strategies of the settler state. If indigenous peoples and black peoples are always positioned as temporally and spatially distant, then it follows that their histories developed discretely. However, through analyzing how, what Patrick Wolfe terms, a “logic of elimination”  is deployed within the Canadian settler state, it become clear that settler colonialism and transatlantic slavery have always been engaged in an intimate and mutually reinforcing relationship in Canada. By moving beyond the temporality and geography of the settler state, not only does it become clear that the connections between indigenous and black peoples are actually foundational to the Canadian settler state’s current formation, but space is also created to develop alliances between indigenous and black peoples. Developing alliances is integral to imagining a reconfiguration of the current settler state that moves beyond divide-and-conquer politics, and towards a more just way of organizing societies that takes seriously the flesh-and-blood of all individual subjects and the human species as whole.

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