On the structural limits of recognition (hint: it’s not a decolonial passage): Deanne Aline Marie LeBlanc, The colonial denizen: a proposal to move beyond the politics of recognition toward a politics of responsibilities, PhD Dissertation, University of British Columbia, 2020


Abstract: Since the twentieth century Canadian political scientists, government and society have become increasingly aware of the need to address the various effects and realities of colonialism. This has been a positive step forward for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike and has led to various steps toward ‘reconciliation’ if not decolonization. And yet, the predominant, mainstream approaches taken or proffered by (largely non-Indigenous) scholars and government officials, in response to Indigenous peoples’ calls for change, can only go so far in the move toward decolonization. This is because they are stuck within the logics of liberal democracy and recognition, based within the prevailing arguments that moving beyond contemporary colonial situations can only be achieved through either a more comprehensive extension of liberal democratic (settler) citizenship to Indigenous peoples, or through proper ‘recognition’ of Indigenous peoples from within a predominantly non-Indigenous (settler) perspective and societal structure. Not only are these arguments inappropriate responses to collective colonial realities, they also lead to the further entrenchment of colonial structures, relations and policies because they do not attempt the necessary self-reflexivity and openness to change that decolonization requires.

My proposal is that non-Indigenous peoples, in order that they can properly hear and respond to Indigenous peoples’ calls for decolonization, move beyond these aforementioned approaches and consider themselves ‘foreigners’ in need of invitation onto Indigenous lands – both past and present. I suggest that as colonial denizens non-Indigenous Canadians take up an ethos that encourages them to re-evaluate their lives and relations with Indigenous peoples, lands and the settler state. The following provides a thought experiment centered around the colonial denizen through which non-Indigenous peoples are encouraged to question the sovereignty of the state, the impacts of the Canadian citizenship regime, their daily lives, and their relations to land at the same time that it encourages them to place responsibilities to others above inwardly-focused rights. I contend that such a thought experiment can open a path toward the instantiation of this denizen ethos (both discursively and materially), an ethos which acts as a potential and active way through which non-Indigenous peoples could appropriately and seriously meet Indigenous peoples’ calls for change.

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