Introducing a special issue of American Quarterly: M. Bianet Castellanos, ‘Introduction: Settler Colonialism in Latin America’, American Quarterly, 69, 4, 2017, pp. 777-781


Excerpt: Inspired by recent debates over the suitability of extending settler colonialism as a framework for understanding the experiences of indigenous Latinx in the United States and indigenous peoples in Latin America, this forum offers a substantive engagement with settler colonial theory that attends to the specificities of Latin American colonialism(s). Considered a key distinction of Anglophone imperial projects, it is rare to find settler colonialism applied to Latin America. This resistance reflects entrenched divisions precluding North–South dialogues, problems regarding the concept’s translatability to a Latin American context, and an emphasis on binary divisions within settler colonial theory.

Applying settler colonial theory to Latin America is hampered by the nascent relationship between American Indian studies and Latin American studies. Although both fields have been instrumental in advancing indigenous studies, these fields are rarely in conversation with each other. This divide was evident at the 2017 Native American and Indigenous Studies Association meeting. The sessions sponsored by the Abiayala Working Group, which supports indigenous studies in Latin America and the Caribbean, are seldom attended by scholars of American Indian studies. While recent forays to bring postcolonial studies in conversation with American Indian studies and to frame indigenous Latinx communities within a settler colonial paradigm gesture toward new engagements with the global South, these efforts remain focused on North America.

The term itself is difficult to translate. In Spanish, settler colonialism translates to colonialismo de asentamiento or colonialismo de colonos. Shannon Speed points out that the Spanish definition of colonialism implies settlement, making these translations redundant. As such, it is a slippery concept to apply to Latin America where nation-building projects have framed criollización/creolization as “an indigenizing process.” We are left with the quandary of debating who is a settler.

%d bloggers like this: