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Red Skin, White Masks

Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition

Glen Sean Coulthard
Foreword by Taiaiake Alfred
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Red Skin, White Masks
    Book Description:

    Over the past forty years, recognition has become the dominant mode of negotiation and decolonization between the nation-state and Indigenous nations in North America. The term "recognition" shapes debates over Indigenous cultural distinctiveness, Indigenous rights to land and self-government, and Indigenous peoples' right to benefit from the development of their lands and resources.

    In a work of critically engaged political theory, Glen Sean Coulthard challenges recognition as a method of organizing difference and identity in liberal politics, questioning the assumption that contemporary difference and past histories of destructive colonialism between the state and Indigenous peoples can be reconciled through a process of acknowledgment. Beyond this, Coulthard examines an alternative politics-one that seeks to revalue, reconstruct, and redeploy Indigenous cultural practices based on self-recognition rather than on seeking appreciation from the very agents of colonialism.

    Coulthard demonstrates how a "place-based" modification of Karl Marx's theory of "primitive accumulation" throws light on Indigenous-state relations in settler-colonial contexts and how Frantz Fanon's critique of colonial recognition shows that this relationship reproduces itself over time. This framework strengthens his exploration of the ways that the politics of recognition has come to serve the interests of settler-colonial power.

    In addressing the core tenets of Indigenous resistance movements, like Red Power and Idle No More, Coulthard offers fresh insights into the politics of active decolonization.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4242-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Taiaiake Alfred

    Not so very long ago, in Canada there numbered just less than fourteen million inhabitants: thirteen million human beings, and half a million Natives. The former had the land; the others had the memory of it. Between the two there were hired chiefs, an Indian Affairs bureaucracy, and a small bourgeoisie, all three shams from the very beginning to the end, which served as go-betweens. In this unending colony the truth stood naked, but the settlers preferred it hidden away or at least dressed: the Natives had to love them and all they had done, something in the way a...

    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION. Subjects of Empire
    (pp. 1-24)

    Over the last forty years, the self-determination efforts and objectives of Indigenous peoples in Canada have increasingly been cast in the language of “recognition.”¹ Consider, for example, the formative declaration issued by my people in 1975:

    We the Dene of the NWT [Northwest Territories] insist on the right to be regarded by ourselves and the world as a nation.

    Our struggle is for therecognitionof the Dene Nation by the Government and people of Canada and the peoples and governments of the world. . . .

    And while there are realities we are forced to submit to, such as...

  6. 1 The Politics of Recognition in Colonial Contexts
    (pp. 25-50)

    My introductory chapter began by making two broad claims: first, I claimed that since 1969 we have witnessed the modus operandi of colonial power relations in Canada shift from a more or less unconcealed structure of domination to a form of colonial governance that works through the medium of state recognition and accommodation; and second, I claimed that regardless of this shift Canadian settler-colonialism remains structurally oriented around achieving the same power effect it sought in the pre-1969 period: the dispossession of Indigenous peoples of their lands and self-determining authority. This chapter further develops my first claim by providing a...

  7. 2 For the Land: The Dene Nation’s Struggle for Self-Determination
    (pp. 51-78)

    As suggested in my introduction and chapter 1, one of the problems most commonly associated with the politics of recognition has to do with the ways in which it has, at times, shown to be insufficiently informed by “a sociological understanding of power relations.”¹ For self-proclaimed “historical materialist” critics Frances Widdowson and Albert Howard, the conflict at the heart of those power relations effaced by the liberal recognition paradigm is primarily economic in origin. “This conflict,” Widdowson and Howard write, is “elaborated in all of Marx’s writings [and] exists between the few who own the means of production and those...

  8. 3 Essentialism and the Gendered Politics of Aboriginal Self-Government
    (pp. 79-104)

    In this chapter I explore in detail the second cluster of concerns often associated with the politics of recognition briefly identified in my introductory chapter. These criticisms have tended to focus on the empirically problematic and normatively suspect character of recognition claims based on “essentialist” articulations of collective identity. According to social constructivist proponents of this line of critique, when claims for cultural accommodation are grounded on essentialist expressions of group identity they can too easily be deployed to justify repressive and authoritarian demands for group compliance on the one hand, or sanction unjust practices of exclusion and marginalization on...

  9. 4 Seeing Red: Reconciliation and Resentment
    (pp. 105-130)

    On June 11, 2008, the Conservative prime minister of Canada, Stephen J. Harper, issued an official apology on behalf of the Canadian state to Indigenous survivors of the Indian residential school system.¹ Characterized as the inauguration of a “new chapter” in the history of Aboriginal–non-Aboriginal relations in the country, the residential school apology was a highly anticipated and emotionally loaded event. Across the country, Native and non-Native people alike gathered in living rooms, band offices, churches, and community halls to witness and pay homage to this so-called “historic” occasion. Although there was a great deal of Native skepticism toward...

  10. 5 The Plunge into the Chasm of the Past: Fanon, Self-Recognition, and Decolonization
    (pp. 131-150)

    This chapter begins to sketch out in more detail the alternative politics of recognition briefly introduced at the end of chapter 1. As suggested there, far from evading the recognition paradigm entirely, Fanon instead turns our attention to the cultural practices of critical individual and collectiveself-recognitionthat colonized populations often engage in to empower themselves, instead of relying too heavily on the colonial state and society to do this for them. This is the realm of self-affirmative cultural, artistic, and political activity that Fanon associated largely but not exclusively withnegritude. The negritude movement first emerged in France during...

  11. CONCLUSION. Lessons from Idle No More: The Future of Indigenous Activism
    (pp. 151-180)

    In writing this book I set out to problematize the increasingly commonplace assumption that the colonial relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Canadian state can be reconciled via a liberal “politics of recognition.” I characterized the “politics of recognition” as a recognition-based approach to reconciling Indigenous peoples’ assertions of nationhood with settler-state sovereignty via the accommodation of Indigenous identity-related claims through the negotiation of settlements over issues such as land, economic development, and self-government. I argued that this orientation to the reconciliation of Indigenous nationhood with state sovereignty is stillcolonialinsofar as it remains structurally committed to the dispossession...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 181-220)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 221-229)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 230-230)