‘Settler colonial theory’s problem space’: Stephanie E. Smallwood, ‘Reflections on Settler Colonialism, the Hemispheric Americas, and Chattel Slavery’, The William and Mary Quarterly, 76, 3, 2019, pp. 407-416

07Aug19

Excerpt: ATTENTION to “settler-driven” colonies as a distinct form first emerged in the context of the long nineteenth century of modern British imperial expansion. […] 

The difference between settler and franchise colonialisms manifests itself most clearly in the outcome of nationalist mobilizations for independence. In the franchise setting, postcolonial independence results in white colonists being “throw[n] . . . out,” according to Wolfe. Having only ever been a demographic minority, “the Whites turn out not to have been established in the same way that settler colonizers have been established.” But the opposite is the case in the settler context. Regarding Australia, for instance, Wolfe explains that white colonists “went to Australia to replace Aborigines and themselves become Australians, so their children would be Australians and Australia would then go on forever.” Given that, what settler colonial critique problematizes most directly is the enduring continuity of colonial relations of power […]. As the claim most readily associated with settler colonial critique asserts, “settler colonizers come to stay,” with the result that the invasion at the heart of settler colonialism “is a structure not an event.” Settler colonial theory’s problem space, then, is the as-yet-unfinished project of decolonization, and the principal work the settler colonialism concept does is to account for the process of supersession whereby the settler colony is replaced by the “settler-colonial state”—the independent polity born of (white) colonizing settlers turned sovereigns …



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