How Canadian bureaucrats make state territory in the name of ‘restoring’ Indigenous rights

I’m quite happy that some recent work of mine is now out in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers.[very happy to send copies to anybody with subscription or without email].

The paper looks at how bureaucrats in Canada used the development of new legislation regarding private property on lands reserved for First Nations to convert Indigenous claims to territory into spaces akin to municipalities. I’ve put the abstract below, and aim to put out a short piece or two to summarize soon; one aspect of the work is its basis in bureaucratic practices…many of which are about addressing critiques within and beyond the government. So I’ll be keen to see what (if any) responses it generates.

Bureaucratic Territory: First Nations, Private Property, and “Turn-Key” Colonialism in Canada

Abstract:

Since 2006, successive Canadian governments have worked to create private property regimes on lands reserved for First Nations. This article examines how the state framed the theory and history of Aboriginal property rights to achieve this goal. It then shows how, under the pretense of restoration, bureaucrats developed legislation that would create novel political spaces where, once converted to private property, reserved lands would function as a new kind of federal municipality in Canada. These changes took place in two ways: First, bureaucrats situated Aboriginal property within the state apparatus and reconfigured Indigenous territorial rights into a series of “regulatory gaps” regarding voting thresholds, certainty of title, and the historical misrepresentation of First Nations economies. Second, the government crafted legislation under what is known as the First Nations Property Ownership Initiative that, by closing regulatory gaps, would produce private property regimes analogous to municipal arrangements elsewhere in Canada. These bureaucratic practices realigned internal state mechanisms to produce novel external boundaries among the state, Indigenous lands, and the economy. By tracking how bureaucratic practices adapted to Indigenous refusals of state agendas, the article shows how the bureaucratic production of territory gave form to a new iteration of settler-colonialism in Canada.

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Comments

  1. Congrats on the article publication. Looks really interesting. Although my thoughts are in sketch form, I’ve added it to some class notes I use when I teach Tim Ingold with Hugh Brody for a cultural ecology course. I’ll be looking forward to see how this develops.

    • Hi Jason, this is very kind! I’d be curious to know how the idea of ‘transliteration’ is worked with in the course. I’m working around the idea in its common sense as a way to consider what is lost (and the power relations attendant to that loss) when one spatial alphabet cannot capture the relations of another.

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