adam barker on indigenous peoples and the occupy movement


Adam J. Barker, ‘Already Occupied: Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism and the Occupy Movements in North America’, Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest (Advance, 2012)

Indigenous struggles in Canada and the USA—the northern bloc of settler colonialism—have long been characterized by tactical occupations. It is often assumed that Indigenous peoples’ concerns are congruent with those of ‘the 99%’: broad-based opposition to economic and political marginalization, strong sub-currents of environmentalism and direct democracy, and antipathy towards state violence. Indigenous people and groups have engaged with Occupy, but have also raised powerful critiques of the goals, philosophies and tactics of various Occupy movements. As a result, there have been changes within the praxes of Occupy, but also conflict and disintegration. Many concerns of Indigenous peoples remain unaddressed; legacies of historical colonization and the dynamics of contemporary settler colonialism are powerfully entrenched. The Occupy movements seek to claim the spaces created by state power and corporate wealth—specific sites such as Zuccotti Park or Wall Street, and general spaces of urban poverty and suburban collapse. Indigenous occupations, by contrast, seek to reclaim and reassert relationships to land and place submerged beneath the settler colonial world. These occupations question the validity of settler colonial nation states. Simultaneously, the nationalistic, racialized content of Occupy movements in North America does not just leave Indigenous peoples out; it situates Occupy within a settler colonial dynamic, participating in the transfer of land and power to the hands of the settler colonial majority. Settler colonialism provides a powerful lens through which to examine Settler—Indigenous dynamics around Occupy.

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