Does it help decolonisation? Rachel Busbridge, ‘Israel-Palestine and the Settler Colonial “Turn”: From Interpretation to Decolonization’, History, Theory & Society, 2017


Abstract: In recent years there has been a powerful resurgence of settler colonialism as an interpretive framework through which to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Attached to the burgeoning field of settler colonial studies, this so-called ‘turn’ to settler colonialism has seen Israel-Palestine increasingly compared alongside New World white settler societies like Australia, Canada and the United States. In seeking to undercut the lens of exceptionalism through which the conflict has conventionally been viewed, the settler colonial paradigm has some important counter-hegemonic implications for reframing Israel-Palestine, not least of which is its prescription for decolonization. However, it is paradoxically in the context of decolonization that the limits of the settler colonial paradigm become most apparent. I argue that these limitations are connected to the dominance of Patrick Wolfe’s structural account of settler colonialism, which leaves very little room for transformation, and to the particular connotations settler colonial studies has acquired from the New World contexts in which it is most often articulated. This is particularly the case in Israel-Palestine, where these connotations preclude engagement with the national aspects of the conflict and leave under-examined the unique resonances of the settler/native distinction, which need reckoning with in any serious account of decolonization.

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