Manufacturing settler knowledge: Liam Midzain-Gobin, Making Sense: Indigenous Peoples, Knowledge Production, and Settler Colonialism, PhD dissertation McMaster University, 2020


Abstract: Though it is often taken for granted with an assumed naturalness, settler colonial sovereignty relies on the settler state’s realization of Indigenous territorial dispossession, and the erasure of indigeneity. More than singular or historical events, dispossession and erasure are ongoing, and are best understood as contemporary, and structural, features of settler governance because of the continued existence of Indigenous nations. As a result, seemingly stable settler states (such as Canada) are in a constant state of insecurity, due to Indigenous nations’ competing claims of authority. As such, settler states are continually working to (re)produce their own sovereign authority, and legitimacy. This text argues that knowledge is central to the (re)production of settler sovereignty, and hence, settler colonialism. Understood this way, knowledge is both produced and also productive. What we ‘know’ is not only framed by the cosmologies and ontologies through which we make meaning of the world, but it also serves as an organizing tool, structuring what interventions we imagine to be possible. Focusing on government policymaking, this text documents the erasure of Indigenous knowledges, cosmologies, and imaginaries from settler colonial governance practices. It does so through an analysis of the Aboriginal Peoples’ Survey, the settlement of, and territorial allotment in, British Columbia and provincial land management policies such as the Forest and Range Evaluation Program. Using this empirical work, it argues that this erasure enables the reification of settler imaginaries over Indigenous territory, which in turn creates the conditions within which settler colonial authority is legitimized and sovereignty continually remade through policy interventions. While the text largely centres on territory in what is today Canada, it also offers a view into the way in which (settler) coloniality more broadly is continually upheld and remade. Indeed, when viewed through the lens of a global colonial order, the continual remaking of settler sovereignty enables the constitution of international and global politics.

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