Geographies of Settler Colonialism I

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Indigenous Peoples Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Studio 5, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Organizers: Vanessa Sloan Morgan, Paul Sylvestre
Chairs: Paul Sylvestre


At multiple points in our respective tenures as geographers we’ve both been asked some variation of the question: “Who do you read in geography for critiques of settler colonialism?” With a few notable exceptions (e.g., Barker, 2012; Pasternak, 2015; Pasternak & Dafnos, 2017; Tomiak, 2017) the invariably awkward answer is: “I don’t really read in geography for those questions.” Given that settler colonialism is a territorial project fundamentally concerned with dispossessing people of their lands and ways of life, and accumulating lands for the purpose of its conscription into the global circuity of Capital, the lack of sustained engagement in geography should be perplexing. Yet, if we are to consider Lorenzo Verancini’s (2017) observation that settler colonial projects are “characterized by a persistent drive to ultimately supersede the conditions of [their] operation,” (p. 3) that settler colonizers “cover [their] tracks,” and “operate toward their own self-suppression,” (p. 3) it becomes apparent that this disciplinary aphasia, far from being a mere oversight, is a constitutive element of the social relations that animate and structure the ongoing processes of settler colonialism.

Although the blind spots of geography are not new (e.g., Kobayashi, 1994, 2014; Peake & Sheppard, 2014), calls to encompass how different forms of whiteness and colonialism entangle themselves with space have arguably been renewed (e.g., Bonds & Inwood, 2016; de Leeuw et al., 2017; Hunt, 2013; Noxolo, 2017; Pulido, 2015). Settler Colonial Studies has emerged as a way to engage with ongoing processes, structural apparatuses, and socio-political relations that result from, and are productive of, imperialism and colonialism. In places such as Turtle Island/North America (e.g., Barker, 2012; Cowen & Lewis, 2016; Sloan Morgan, 2017), New Zealand/Aotearoa (Larner, 1995), Australia (Howitt & Suchet-Pearson, 2006), and Israel and Palestine (Joronen, 2017), geographers are thinking spatially about the e/affects of settler colonialism. At the same time however, we geographers oftentimes overlook the complexity of relations to settler colonial contexts, casting our gaze in a manner that simplifies or takes for granted the settler and the colonial. Not attending to the myriad ways that settlement, as a naturalized political horizon, conditions our socio-spatial imaginaries limits the political potential of our critical geographic interventions. For instance, Dene political theorist, Glen Coulthard (2013) highlights the ubiquitous disavowal of Indigenous political sovereignties implicit in the conceptual and political frames employed by critical urban scholars who study settler cities. Coulthard identifies the (re)enactment of the racist colonial fiction of terra nullius in urban space as urbs nullius, highlighting a concern that critical anti-gentrification and right to the city scholarship. A number of Indigenous and settler scholars have levelled similar critiques at seemingly radical social movements, such as the Occupy movement in settler cities (e.g., Barker, 2015; Grande, 2013; Tuck and Yang, 2012).

In this session, we encourage empirical, experiential, praxis, and/or theoretically situated perspectives from geographers and those working in and from settler colonial contexts on the spatial in the settler colonial, and vice versa. We wish to consider how a more sustained and meaningful engagement between Settler Colonial Studies and Geography can or should be critically productive for both. Questions to consider could include:

• What could a geography of settler colonialism entail to ensure prolonged, responsive, and requested results can be utilized by and for Indigenous sovereignties?

• How can insights and theories from Critical Race Studies scholars and anti-racist geographies bear on settler colonialism, its manifestations, and vice versa?

• How does settler colonialism reproduce its likeness in structural and processually specific manifestations (e.g., urban spaces, capital, property, etc.)?

• How can and should an attention to settler colonial relations alter the way geographers think about the production of urban space?

• What can geographical understanding of space and spatiality lend to settler colonial studies to more critically engage its e/affects?

• In interrogating ongoing settler colonial processes and structures, or in using settler colonialism as an analytic, how must we think of time differently in order to account for the multiply tenses through which settler colonialism operates?

• What can queering settler spaces look like, and how can these spatialities be enacted in interpersonal and everyday relations?


Barker, A. (2012). Already Occupied: Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism and the Occupy Movements in North America. Social Movement Studies, 11(3–4), 327–334.

Barker, A. J. (2015). Already Occupied: Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism and the Occupy Movements in North America. Social Movement Studies, 11(3–4), 327–334.

Bonds, A., & Inwood, J. (2016). Beyond white privilege: Geographies of white supremacy and settler colonialism. Progress in Human Geography, 40(6), 715–733.

Coulthard, G. S. (2013). Urbs nullius: Gentrification and decolonization [youtube video],
Retrieved from:

Cowen, D., & Lewis, N. (2016, August 2). Anti-blackness and urban geopolitical economy: Reflections on Ferguson and the suburbanization of the “internal colony.” Retrieved from

de Leeuw, S., Parkes, M. W., Morgan, V. S., Christensen, J., Lindsay, N., Mitchell-Foster, K., & Russell Jozkow, J. (2017). Going unscripted: A call to critically engage storytelling methods and methodologies in geography and the medical-health sciences. The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe Canadien.

Grande, S. (2013). Accumulation of the primitive: the limits of liberalism and the politics of occupy Wall Street. Settler Colonial Studies, 3(3–4), 369–380.

Howitt, R., & Suchet-Pearson, S. (2006). Rethinking the building blocks: Ontological pluralism and the idea of “management.” Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 88(3), 323–335.

Hunt, S. (2013). Ontologies of Indigeneity: the politics of embodying a concept. Cultural Geographies, 21(1), 27–32.

Joronen, M. (2017, July 25). Waiting and claiming rights: Precarities of settler colonial recognition. Retrieved from

Kobayashi, A. (1994). Coloring the field: Gender, ’race’, and the politics of fieldwork. Professional Geographer, 46, 73–80.

Kobayashi, A. (2014). The Dialectic of Race and the Discipline of Geography. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 104(6), 1101–1115.

Larner, W. (1995). Theorising “Difference” in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Gender, Place & Culture, 2(2), 177–190.

Noxolo, P. (2017). Introduction: Decolonising geographical knowledge in a colonised and re-colonising postcolonial world. Area, 49(3), 317–319.

Pasternak, S. (2015). How capitalism will save colonialism: The privatization of Reserve lands in Canada. Antipode Foundation: A Radical Geography Community, 47(1), 179–196.

Pasternak, S., & Dafnos, T. (2017). How does a settler state secure the circuitry of capital? Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 026377581771320.

Peake, L., & Sheppard, E. (2014). The emergence of radical/critical geography within North America. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 13(2), 305–327.

Pulido, L. (2015). Geographies of race and ethnicity 1: White supremacy vs white privilege in environmental racism research. Progress in Human Geography, 39(6), 809–817.

Sloan Morgan, V. (2017). Moving from rights to responsibilities: extending Hannah Arendt’s critique of collective responsibility to the settler colonial context of Canada. Settler Colonial Studies, 1–17.
Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor, 1(1), 1–40.

Tomiak, J. (2017). Contesting the Settler City: Indigenous Self-Determination, New Urban Reserves, and the Neoliberalization of Colonialism: Contesting the Settler City. Antipode.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Gabi Kirk*, UC Davis Geography Graduate Group, Trains, terraces, and trees: Settler-colonial and indigenous landscapes in Palestine-Israel 20 2:00 PM
Presenter Sharon Fuller*, Independent Scholar, Indigeneity, Diaspora and Belonging: Construction of Self as Indigenous in the Americas 20 2:20 PM
Presenter Nadia Abu-Zahra*, University of Ottawa, Spatial Resistance and Repression 20 2:40 PM
Presenter Arn Keeling*, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Caitlynn Beckett, Memorial University, Remediation, Reconciliation and Redress: Repairing mining landscapes in a settler colonial context 20 3:00 PM
Presenter Damian Collins*, University of Alberta, Ariel Macdonald, University of Alberta, Settler Colonialism at the Legislature: Views from Alberta, Canada 20 3:20 PM

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