Settler colonial slow violence: Pauline Wakeham, ‘The Slow Violence of Settler Colonialism: Genocide, Attrition, and the Long Emergency of Invasion’, Journal of Genocide Research, 2021

21Mar21

Abstract: In recent decades, scholarship has sought to redress genocide studies’ lack of attention to assaults against Indigenous group life in settler colonial contexts. While this scholarship has made important interventions into a field dominated by the Holocaust prototype, work on genocides targeting Indigenous peoples has still laboured under the shadow of this paradigm’s norms, including the prioritization of time-intense direct violence enacted with explicit intent. Studies of settler colonial genocide have consequently tended to focus upon specific, temporally-bound historical policies and events despite the fact that such assaults are part of settler colonialism’s persistent structure of invasion. In 2019, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada challenged this case-specific approach, arguing that violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people is part of a protracted, ongoing genocide against Indigenous nations. In this article, I expand upon the Inquiry’s consideration of slower, less direct modes of group destruction. To do so, I draw upon scholarship on genocide by attrition—a concept not mentioned in the Inquiry’s report. Despite their shared concerns, studies of genocide by attrition and settler colonial genocide have yet to engage each other substantially. I consider how cross-pollination between these fields helps to challenge restrictive equations of genocide with time-intensive direct violence. Additionally, I develop a framework for addressing the cumulative harms that accrue when multiple genocidal processes are waged upon Indigenous nations as part of settler colonialism’s long emergency. Finally, I consider how settler colonial genocidal processes necessitate a more nuanced, knowledge-based interpretation of intent—an approach that illuminates how the consequences of protracted assaults become undeniable and, therefore, undeniably intended as they proceed in slow motion.



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