American Association of Geographers, Political Geography Specialty Group – CFP: Settler colonial fabrications/Fabricating settler colonialism

American Association of Geographers (AAG)
Annual Meeting Washington, DC, April 3-7, 2019
Organizers: Rhys Machold (University of Glasgow), Stepha Velednitsky (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Sara Salazar Hughes (USC)
Both interest in settler colonial studies and critiques of that field (Simpson 2017; Snelgrove et al 2014; Macoun & Strakosch 2013; Svirsky 2017) have been on the rise in the last decade. These discussions have been animated by comparative studies of different “cases” of settler colonialism as well as a focus on the notion of certain forms/sites as “exemplars” (Lloyd 2012), often defined by heightened levels of deprivation and violence. In differentiating settler colonialism from other colonial forms but also exploring the interconnections between them, leading theorists have often focused on the guiding logics and structures behind these socio-historical formations. Indeed, settler colonial studies  “leans towards the discursive aspects and imaginative geographies of settler colonialism” (Salamanca 2014:22), often negating its material and infrastructural underpinnings and the recurring disruptions/frictions involved in practices of accumulation through violence and dispossession. This tendency among critics has produced a unidirectional, instrumental and unhindered picture of settler colonial formations that sediments rather than usettles their perceived inevitability and coherence and develops a (possibly) misplaced focus on typologies. As Laura Ann Stoler has recently argued, “Settler colonialism might better be understood not as a unique ‘type,’ but as the effect of a failed or protracted contest over appropriation and dispossession that is not over when the victories are declared, killings are accomplished, and decimation is resolved as the only ‘solution.’ Settler colonialism is only ever an imperial process in formation […] that it is always at risk of being undone” (Stoler 2016: 61). Indeed, while settler formations are built on claims of inevitability and coherence, and can appear as unidirectional, instrumental, and unhindered, their material unfoldings are riddled with failures and disruptions. Settler colonial societies are therefore invariably marked by a series of recurring settler anxieties: anxiety about how the colonized shape and are an intrinsic part of the colonizing society’s identity; existential fear of being undone by indigenous resurgence; need to keep separate ‘what we have done’ from ‘who we are’ (Veracini 2011).

Within this session, we are interested not just in the conceptual and material ways that settlers manage these psychic conflicts and psychopathologies, but also in the ways movements for decolonial resistance might leverage these fissures and disjunctures toward liberatory futures, thereby unraveling settler colonial fabrications. We seek to do so by exploring the workings of settler colonial failures and the roles of expertise within the troubled ideological and embodied interfaces of settler ideology and indigenous/decolonial resistance. Within these conversations, we are also interested in the distinctions between the more conventional representation of expertise as ‘packages’ of knowhow to be exchanged in a marketplace versus the idea of expertise in terms of relations between different sites and actors (cf. Agnew 2007). By positioning claims and practices of expertise in the latter way, we aim to probe how self-declared ‘experts’ and their claims to expertise enable connections and networks to be forged between various places and processes:

  • How do communities create and/or exploit failures within settler colonialism  for anti-colonial and decolonial resistance (Tuck and Yang 2012)?

  • How does the interface between the imagined/psychic and the material/practical inflect expressions of failure and possibly evoke struggle or resistance?

  • How is expertise deployed to address settlers’ anxieties about perceived threats?

  • In what ways are the junctions of settler ideology/knowledge/expertise and resistant knowledges/sites of material resistance productive, fraught, or disruptive?

  • How do settlers strategically mobilize/deploy anxiety through recurring claims to overcoming failure/difficulty via ‘progress’ and ‘innovation’?

  • How does geographic, economic, and political variegation shape the ways in which ideology and expertise operate within a range of settler colonial projects?

Interested applicants should send abstracts of no more than 250 words to Stepha Velednitsky at by Monday, October 15th. Accepted applicants will be notified by October 22. *Note: to enhance the quality of discussion, session participants must submit brief conference papers (approx. 10 pp.) to the session organizers by March 18, 2019 for distribution to discussant(s).

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