The disaster of settler colonialism: Andrew Kensinger, Unsettling Recovery: Natural Disaster Response and the Politics of Contemporary Settler Colonialism, PhD Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 2019


Abstract: This dissertation is an ethnographic case study of the Christchurch Central City Rebuild. Following a series of severe earthquakes near Christchurch, New Zealand between September 2010 and February 2011, the central government declared a state of emergency and passed the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 (CER Act). This act mandated the creation of a new governing body, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, to oversee the development and implementation of a recovery strategy and plan for the Central City to be developed in cooperation with the Christchurch City Council and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, the local Māori tribal authority. I analyze the structure of power established by the post-earthquake recovery legislation through the lens of Rebuild discourse, a discursive regime comprised of multiple political projects that each engaged in recovery in particular ways to enact their specific vision of what future Christchurch ought to be. I argue that the passage of the CER Act and the structure of power it created in post-earthquake Christchurch drew on the legacy of New Zealand’s settler-colonial history to enable the neoliberal settler state in its efforts to dispossess local Christchurch residents of access to their city while also maintaining the ongoing dispossession of the local indigenous group Ngāi Tahu in order to serve the interests of economic and political elites.

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