The food politics of settler colonialism: Janna L. Lafferty, Plant Pedagogies, Salmon Nation, and Fire: Settler Colonial Food Utopias and the (Un)Making of Human-Land Relationships in Coast Salish Territories, PhD Dissertation, Florida International University, 2018


Abstract: As knowledge about the constellating set of environmental and social crises stemming from the neoliberal global food regime becomes more pressing and popularized among US consumers, it has brought Indigenous actors asserting their political sovereignty and treaty rights with regards to their homelands into new collaborations, contestations, and negotiations with settlers in emerging food politics domains. In this dissertation, I examine solidarities and affinities being forged between Coast Salish and settler food actors in Puget Sound, attending specifically to how contested sovereignties are submerged but at play in these relations and how settler desires for belonging on and to stolen Indigenous lands animate liberal and radical food system politics.

The dissertation presents my ethnographic fieldwork in South Puget Sound over a period of 18 months with two related Coast Salish food sovereignty projects that brought Indigenous and settler food actors into weedy collaborations. One was a curriculum development project for Native and regional youth focused on the revitalization of Coast Salish plant landscapes, knowledge, pedagogies, and systems of reciprocity. The other was a campaign to counter the introduction of genetically engineered salmon into US food markets and coastal production facilities across the Western Hemisphere, which I situate within longstanding salmon-centered social and political struggles in Coast Salish territories in the context of Indigenous/settler-state relations. Throughout these engagements, I identified how multicultural, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist food movement frameworks share in common with neoliberal nature privatization schemes modes of disavowing the geopolitics of Indigenous sovereignty within the US settler state. The research reveals patterns in how Coast Salish food actors push back against the ways settler food actors are plugged into settler colonial governmentality. These insights, in turn, helped to make legible how inherited liberal mythologies of the nation-state and legal orders rooted in the doctrine of terra nulliuslimit the stakes of food system work in terms of inclusion and equality, and miss their collusion with structures that unmake the human-land relationships that Coast Salish people define as existential and (geo)political.

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