In hegemonic legal discourse, as well as dominant academic paradigms, discussions of decolonization most often take (former) franchise colonies as their point of reference. Postcolonial theory itself emerged from the study of the cultural legacy of colonialism and imperialism, and how it endures after putative decolonization. But what sort of decolonization is possible in settler colonial contexts? In Patrick Wolfe’s theorization of settler colonialism, he argued that this model of domination operates by “the logic of elimination of the native” because the acquisition of land is its central feature. Based on enduring settlement, settler colonialism is – as Wolfe put it – “a structure, not an event.” Thus, in tending to settler colonialism as an ongoing structure of domination, what decolonization must entail will differ than in franchise colonies (or other colonial situations). As such, decolonization that includes a commitment to decoloniality should impact historical interpretation, and by extension studies of race and indigeneity that challenge the logic of elimination.
J. Kēhaulani Kauanui is Professor of American Studies and an affiliate faculty member in Anthropology at Wesleyan University, where she serves as the current Chair of the American Studies Department, and the current Director of the Center for the Americas.
Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Sawyer Seminar on Race and Indigeneity in the Americas.