Settler autochthonicity: Tyler Eliot Stuart, Paradoxes for the Settler Soul: The Ascetical Philosophy of Tim Lilburn, MA dissertation, University of Victoria, 2023


Abstract: This thesis will explore the prose of Tim Lilburn, particularly his trilogy of essay collections: Living In The WorldAsIf It Were Home, Going Home, and The Larger Conversation. These books are a record of Lilburn’s project of autochthonicity — an attempt to live undivided from the places he lives — and the challenges ofsuch a journey as a European settler on stolen Indigenous land. Lilburn’s approach to this endeavour, which he considers a process of decolonization, resuscitates European contemplative thought to remedy the sapiential poverty of white settler culture and identity. Throughout this thesis, I examine the epistemological significance of Lilburn’s retrieval of these European traditionsinto NorthAmerican colonial modernity — attending to what they reveal about the interior dispositions of white settler subjectivity and the cultural trappings of late capitalism. By engaging with the paradoxes coursing through Lilburn’s body of work — a linguistic form famousfor defying logic — I make a case for the importance of epistemic impasse, or aporia. That is, I argue that the peculiarity of Lilburn’s paradoxical thought, or the difficulty of grasping it, can, if one lets it, alert one to one’s own epistemic allegiances. And these allegiances, I will argue, have had devastating consequences not only for Indigenous peoples, but also for European settlers themselves. Ultimately, I argue that the paradoxical shape of Lilburn’s thought gestures toward the need for an ascetical, and therefore countercultural, knowledge.

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