Unsettling settler colonialism: a caste study in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands/occupied O’odham territory

Authors: Rebekah Kartal*, University of British Columbia
Topics: Political Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: settler colonialism, imagined erasure, indigenous sovereignty, dispossession, politics of refusal
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 4:30 PM / 6:10 PM
Room: Truman, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The United States-Mexico borderlands have long been depicted as a threatening space in need of security. These contemporary portrayals of the borderlands exemplify settler colonial ideology that has and continues to depend on imagined erasures of current O’odham inhabitants of the region. Moreover, these settler colonial imaginative geographies buttress a politics of immigration that focuses on questions of inclusion and U.S. citizenship, thereby potentially further masking matters of indigenous sovereignty and dispossession. Qualitative research in Tucson, Arizona reveals dominant immigrants’ rights discourses, emerging within the U.S. settler colonial formation, may fail to acknowledge O’odham presence in spite of ongoing violent dispossession. As such, the relationship born out of the settler colonial formation may foreclose forms of decolonial resistance in particular spaces. This paper seeks to examine the ways in which a Palestine/occupied O’odham land solidarity group disrupts the ideologies of U.S. settler colonialism. I do so by first analyzing how the solidarity group’s public education events that depict ongoing dispossession alongside indigenous presence encourage attendees to perceive U.S. settler sovereignty as conflictive and dispossessive, rather than natural. Next, I will explore how the solidarity group’s refusal to make demands upon the settler colonial state may signal an opening towards a politics that diverges from that of the settler colonial sovereign. Finally, I will argue that, together, the public education and the politics of refusal employed by the Palestine/occupied O’odham land solidarity group may work to unsettle the U.S. settler colonial state.

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