Settlers turn away: Tristan D. Jones, Turning away: race, power, and settler colonialism in the Peace River tar sands of Alberta, Canada, PhD dissertation, Rutgers University, 2019


Description: Within the Peace River Oil Sands patch of Alberta, Canada, white settlers actively avoid awareness of the pollution and social violence their Indigenous neighbors experience daily. To do so, they erect racial boundaries that separate them from their Indigenous Other with violent consequences. Their avoidance both produces and is enabled through a settler coloniality – a racial hierarchy that allocates political, economic, and cultural power inequitably to privilege settlers and marginalize Indigenous nations, better securing state and industry access to natural resource regions. This allocation of power drives the formation of the Canadian nation-state and provides significant material benefit to its white citizens, but often to the detriment of First Nations communities. Application of theory from environmental anthropology, critical Native and race studies, and decolonial and phenomenological methods reveals that processes of historical narration, spatial practice, and Anglo-Canadian perception of Indigenous bodies and space work concurrently to reproduce the settler coloniality that allows tar sands development to expand in the absence of local political opposition. I conclude that settlers’ refusal to cross the boundaries they create denies them the ability to see Indigenous neighbors in their full humanity, reinforces stereotypes, and thus prolongs environmental injustice in settler societies. This argument is driven by an engaged praxis, meant to assist in dismantling harmful racial boundaries across settler nations; that wherever Indigenous nations, peoples of color, and settlers live together we achieve the cessation of the social and environmental violence that justice, reconciliation, and human rights all demand.

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