"Une décolonisation manquée": An attempt to investigate the socio-ecological disruptions of nation-building in the margins of Quebec without reinforcing a settler colonial narrative.

Authors: Guillaume Proulx*, Universite Du Quebec En Abitibi-Temiscamingue
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Human-Environment Geography, Canada
Keywords: Socio-ecological evolution, Nation-building, Settler colonialism, Representations, Abitibi, Quebec
Session Type: Paper
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French-language research about settlement movements in Quebec has naturalized and legitimized over time settler colonial claims about the land seen as valuable for its natural resources. For instance, Asselin and Morissonneau (1980) describe the colonization of Abitibi (North West of Quebec) in the early 20th century as a failed decolonization (“décolonisation manquée”), as the occupation and transformation of unceded land by a French-language settler-state is seen as legitimate, but Anglo-dominated extractive capitalism in Quebec is presented as colonialism towards the Québécois. The continuous equivocation of this experience of oppression as colonization has been mobilized by the provincial state as part of a nation-building agenda. As part of my M.S. thesis, I drew upon cultural materialist and postcolonial theories in geography to investigate the socio-ecological evolution of a local landscape in Abitibi over the last 120 years by exploring its relationship with the state’s representations of the region. To do so, a cartographic representation analysis was made using maps produced by the provincial state over time, along with a multi-proxy diachronic analysis using demographic, ecological and land-use datasets. I propose that a resource frontier emerged by the contingent materialization of colonial ways of representing the land and the territorialization of a resource exploitation regime. This methodology might inform further research in the field of political ecology, as the socio-ecological evolution of the area shows how settler colonial representations are involved in the reordering of nature where the dispossession of Indigenous land meets environmental degradation and local dependence upon extractive capitalism

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