Beyond settler colonialism or beyond settler colonial studies? Jane Carey, Ben Silverstein, ‘Thinking with and beyond settler colonial studies: new histories after the postcolonial’, Postcolonial Studies, 2020


Abstract: The past two decades have seen the dramatic emergence and, according to some accounts, the seeming rise to dominance of settler colonial studies across a broad range of disciplines. As an approach has become a field, and has perhaps become institutionalised, a series of critiques and debates has prompted both revision and rearticulation. This special issue reflects on the current state of what might now be called the ‘field’ of settler colonial studies. It showcases new directions in scholarship in North America and Australia, regions which have been pivotal in the articulation of settler colonialism as a distinct political, territorial, and epistemological phenomenon.

Most narratives of the development of settler colonial studies suggest that it emerged first in Australia and (to some extent) New Zealand before spreading roughly to Hawaii and Israel/Palestine and eventually to Europe and North America. It was only with this last move that its status as a major new scholarly intervention was confirmed. As Penelope Edmonds and Jane Carey explain, in the 1990s ‘a range of scholars began to view the singular category of “colonialism” as too blunt a tool’. They began to argue that colonies where the settlers ‘came to stay’ were distinctive colonial formations with specific dynamics that required separate interrogation. In short: settler colonial studies began as a response to the perceived limitations of postcolonial theory. Where the ‘post’ in postcolonialism refers to the ongoing effects of colonial rule in states that have been formally decolonised, settler colonial studies consider those political and geographic contexts in which the colonisers never left. This scholarly position emerged through Black and Indigenous criticism. A key aim of this special issue is to return this context to current assessments of the field.

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