Racial Capitalism, Settler Colonialism and the Tourist Imagination in Northern Canada

Authors: Bruce Erickson*, University of Manitoba
Topics: Tourism Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Tourism, Racial Capitalism, Whiteness, Settler Colonialism, Arctic
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 50
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Colonialism in Canada is settler colonialism, with a state that continues to resist efforts by Indigenous communities to assert jurisdiction on their own territory. Yet, the scope of Canada’s geography has meant that settler colonialism has been produced through a variety of tactics, from collaboration and treaty building to cultural genocide and forced dispossession. In the Canadian North, settlement has not been the most significant aspect of settler colonialism. Resource extraction, state enforcement, and, as I argue in this paper, tourism have become the means by which the settler state extends its jurisdiction. In this process, the drive to build the southern economy shapes how settler colonialism interacts with Indigenous Peoples.

Racial capitalism gives us a method to understand these landscapes through an analysis of the economic field of northern development, tourism in the case of my research, built upon an analysis of whiteness as a producer of landscapes. In this case, Indigenous peoples were simultaneously deemed to exist on the land (as ‘natural’) and not exist on the land (which are ‘barrenlands’). Tourists come to see both an ‘exotic’ culture and an empty landscape. As Indigenous Peoples have asserted their jurisdiction this racial capitalism has evolved into what David Theo Goldberg (2009) calls racial neoliberalism. Where race was once marketed, now culture is celebrated as an opportunity for cross-cultural learning. Yet, the economic dynamics of the industry, and the wider colonial context of the North, point to a continued relationship between race, tourism, and capitalism.

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