On indigenous visibility and settler appraisal: Natalie J. K. Baloy, ‘Spectacles and spectres: settler colonial spaces in Vancouver’, Settler Colonial Studies, 2015


Abstract: This paper argues that non-Indigenous ideas of Indigenous alterity shape and are shaped by processes that render Indigeneity spectacular and/or spectral. In Vancouver, BC, the urban centre of the Northwest Coast and ancestral homeland of the Coast Salish people, performances, art, and other forms of display are experienced by non-Indigenous people as spectacles: cultural not political, visual not otherwise sensorial, passively observed not participatory. And Indigeneity also haunts; despite dispossession, erasure, and displacement, Indigenous people return again and again to exercise their sovereignty and refuse conditions of disappearance and display. This revenant spectrality combined with spectacular representation creates a complex structure of feeling in the city. I suggest that, for non-Indigenous people, these conditions produce a holographic Indigeneity: hyper-visible from some angles, invisible from others; constantly present even in moments of apparent absence. Drawing on urban ethnographic research with non-Indigenous subjects, I use the socio-spatial cases of Stanley Park’s totem poles and the Downtown Eastside’s social marginalization to exemplify how spectacular/spectral dynamics characterize and sustain settler colonial logics in a city decorated with Northwest Coast art, haunted by legacies of colonialism, and uncertain about the future of Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations. I argue that conditions of spectacle and spectrality must be identified and transgressed to reimagine a different future.

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