lorenzo veracini on settler colonialism


Lorenzo Veracini, ‘”Settler Colonialism”: Career of a Concept’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History iFirst.

In a necessarily selective way, this paper explores the historiographical evolution of ‘settler colonialism’ as a category of analysis during the second half of the twentieth century. It identifies three main passages in its development. At first (until the 1960s), ‘settlers’, ‘settlement’ and ‘colonisation’ are understood as entirely unrelated to colonialism. The two do not occupy the same analytical field, pioneering endeavours are located in ‘empty’ settings and the presence and persistence of indigenous ‘Others’ is comprehensively disavowed. In a second stage (until the late 1970s), ‘settler colonialism’ as a compound identifies one specific type of diehard colonialism, an ongoing and uncompromising form of hyper-colonialism characterised by enhanced aggressiveness and exploitation (a form that had by then been challenged by a number of anti-colonial insurgencies). During a third phase (from the late 1970s and throughout the first half of the 1980s), settler colonialism is identified by a capacity to bring into being high standards of living and economic development. As such, settler colonialism is understood as the opposite of colonialism and associated underdevelopment and political fragmentation. It is only at the conclusion of a number of successive interpretative moments that ‘settler colonial’ phenomena could be theorised as related to, and yet distinct from, colonial ones. On the basis of this transformations, beginning from approximately the mid-1990s, ‘settler colonial studies’ as an autonomous scholarly field could then consolidate.

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