Settlers are socialised: Nisha Nath, Willow Samara Allen, ‘Settler Colonial Socialization in Public Sector Work: Moving from Privilege to Complicity’, Studies is Social Justice, 16, 1, 2022, pp. 200-226


Abstract: In this piece, we ask, what are the risks of a pedagogy and politics that begins and ends with privilege? What does it mean to declare privilege when embedded in institutions of the settler colonial state? These questions are raised through an ongoing project where we interview provincial public sector workers on Treaty 6, 7 and 8 (Alberta, Canada) and Coast Salish Territories (British Columbia, Canada) about their implications in settler colonialism through public sector work. In the project, we articulate the interdisciplinary framework of settler colonial socialization to consider the space between individuals and structures – the mesospace where settlers are made by learning how to take up the work of settler colonialism. For these reasons, in our research we ask, “what do the pedagogical processes of settler colonial socialization tell us about how systemic colonial violence is sustained, and how it might be disrupted or refused in public sector work?” In this paper, we narrow our focus to the declarations of privilege that many of our interview participants are making. We reflect on these declarations and consider whether focusing on settler complicity and Indigenous refusals can better support a decolonial politics for settlers working in the public sector. We argue that declarations of privilege risk reproducing settler-centric logics that maintain settler colonialism, settler jurisdiction, and settler certainty, and we reflect on how to orient participants (and ourselves) towards the material realization of relational accountability and towards imagining otherwise.

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