The settler’s imaginary: Andrew Kacey Thomas, Dumpster Diving and the Ideal in the Settler-Colonial Imaginary: Heritage Images and their Potential Futures,MA dissertation, University of Calgary, 2021


Abstract: Access and contextualization were problems when archives could only be accessed by scholars, or open to the public in a physical location, but they are now compounded by the affordances of digital access in a unique way. While making archival legacy images available online seems to enable greater understanding of our settler-colonial history, it also allows for popular perceptions and settler-preferences to shape our interaction with these photographs in image searches. This thesis explores the concept of the settler-colonial imaginary, or a perception of the future and narratives of society, in order to understand the way internet search algorithms reproduce and shape settler perceptions of Indigenous futurity through photographs. This is done by conducting three case study analyses of representative moments captured in settler-media photography and examining the continuing effect the framing of these symbols has on settler perceptions of history. By contextualizing the use of symbols of Indigenous difference in the perpetuation of the settler-imaginary, this thesis argues that the default organization of images created by search algorithms reifies racist perceptions of indigeneity which has continuing effects on the production of settler potential futures. In conclusion, I offer reparative interventions in the form of utopian projections to suggest actions that could be done to address this issue at this time.

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