A collaboration that began in my American Landscapes course recently resulted in an article published in the Journal of Cultural Geography (free access here). In this article and in a presentation at the 2019 meeting of the American Association of Geographers, Guillaume Proulx and I have been working to define a cultural-geographical orientation for making sense of the politics of extraction and settler colonial dispossession. With an eye to the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline, we do this in this published work through the concept of “settler colonial landscapes.” This article will be followed by another piece in the coming month, which will explore the relevance of our framework to making sense of these dynamics elsewhere in the hemisphere. The abstract of the Journal of Cultural Geography article can be found below.
“To see things in an objective light”: the Dakota Access Pipeline and the ongoing construction of settler colonial landscapes
Abstract: This paper examines the discourses used by proponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) as claims of universality to which the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and allied activists mounted a movement of opposition in 2014–2017. We position our analysis within the historical context of Lakota and Dakota resistance to settler colonialism, which has endured since the nineteenth century. From publicly available texts circulated by key actors in the conflict over the construction of this pipeline project, we identify themes that proponents of this project drew upon to articulate their representations of the land as universal. We suggest that claims like these, when naturalized in practice, have historically materialized in settler colonial landscapes. With the concept of settler colonial landscapes, we focus on ways of seeing and representing places that have facilitated the dispossession of Indigenous people from their territory as well as the construction of a settler-dominated community. In this way, we develop a cultural geographical understanding of the ongoing construction of settler colonial landscapes as a process dependent on claims to neutrality and objectivity.