‘Green-washing’ Settler Colonialism: Dispossession, Sustainability, and Natural Resource Management*

The emerging field of settler colonial studies investigates the replacement of an indigenous population with an exogenous one on the land as a category analytically distinct from colonialism, which is primarily the control of an exogenous polity over an indigenous population (Degani, 2014; Piterberg, 2011; Veracini, 2010; Wolfe, 1998, 2006). The distinction is premised on a morphological difference between (metropole) colonialism and settler colonialism. The former’s object is the surplus value to be derived from the mixing of native labor with the land (domination of a native population), while the latter’s object is the land itself, leading inevitably to fantasies of emptying the land of its native population by a variety of means. While settler colonial formations are each unique and have their particularities, they are not singular. They share a morphological continuity and an imaginative coherence that distinguishes them from other colonial formations despite their diverse contexts and outcomes.


Central to all settler colonial formations is the land itself, and the ownership, control, and management of it and its resources. Often land appropriation in settler colonial contexts is justified through appeals to “proper use,” the assertion that native peoples are not using the land efficiently, rendering it “wasteland” or “terra nullius” (Tully, 1994). Some scholars have argued that conquest is implicit in the notion of the scarcity of land, pointing out that capitalism and colonialism are coeval (Ince, 2014; Chatterjee, 1993).


This session, located at the intersection of political ecology and comparative settler colonial studies, is interested in the ways that ecological management becomes enrolled in, and enables, settler colonial projects. Among other topics, this session will explore the use of agricultural innovation, nature reserves, and “green” technology – ostensibly aimed at sustainable resource management – as tools of land appropriation and dispossession in settler colonial contexts. How do discourses and policies built around sustainability, resilience, and climate-change mitigation feed into age-old settler colonial discourses of “proper use” of indigenous lands? Papers may focus on historical or contemporary cases of settler colonization and ecological management. Papers may draw on recent conversations between and within the subfields of political ecology and political geography (Dalby, 2013; Harris, 2012; Parenti, 2015), and emerging research on the ‘political geography of the environment’ (Benjaminsen et al., 2017) and ‘political ecologies of the state’ (Harris, 2017), to open new space for collaboration.  In particular, this session seeks to address the relationship between, on the one hand, environmental governance, sustainability, and climate change policy, and, on the other, geostrategy and statecraft in settler colonial contexts.


Interested applicants should send abstracts of no more than 300 words to Sara Salazar Hughes (snhughes@mtholyoke.edu) by November 10th. Accepted applicants will be notified by November 24th.


*Note: Some of the topics explored in this session will resonate with, and serve as a basis for, a session I am co-organizing with Clare Beer (UCLA) for the 2018 AAG, titled “Geopolitical Ecologies: Nature, States, and Governance,” so please also keep an eye out for that CFP if you are attending the AAG meeting. We hope to see many familiar faces there, and to continue and expand on the discussion of how and why states manage their territorial environment to strategic effect, and the ways in which the material realities of nature complicate or subvert such actions.



Benjaminsen, T. A., Buhaug, H., McConnell, F., Sharp, J., & Steinberg, P. E. (2017). Political Geography and the environment. Political Geography, 56, A1–A2.


Chatterjee, P. (1993). The nation and its fragments: Colonial and postcolonial histories (Vol. 11): Princeton University Press Princeton, NJ.


Dalby, S. (2013). The geopolitics of climate change. Political Geography, 37, 38–47.


Degani, A. Y. (2014). The decline and fall of the Israeli Military Government, 1948–1966: a case of settler-colonial consolidation? settler colonial studies(ahead-of-print), 1-16.


Harris, L. M. (2012). State as socionatural effect: Variable and emergent geographies of the state in southeastern Turkey. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 32(1), 25–39.


Harris, L. M. (2017). Political ecologies of the state: Recent interventions and questions going forward. Political Geography, 58, 90–92.


Ince, O. U. (2014). Primitive accumulation, new enclosures, and global land grabs: A theoretical intervention. Rural Sociology, 79(1), 104-131.


Parenti, C. (2015). The 2013 ANTIPODE AAG lecture: The environment making state: Territory, nature, and value. Antipode, 47(4), 829–848.


Piterberg, G. (2011). Literature of Settler Societies: Albert Camus, S. Yizhar and Amos Oz. settler colonial studies, 1(2), 1-52.


Tully, J. (1994). Rediscovering America: The Treatises and Aboriginal Rights. In G. A. J. Rogers (Ed.), Locke's Philosophy: Content and Context (pp. 167-197).


Veracini, L. (2010). Settler Colonialism: Palgrave Macmillan.


Wolfe, P. (1998). Settler Colonialism and the Transformation of Anthropology: Continuum.


Wolfe, P. (2006). Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native. Journal of Genocide Research, 8(4), 387-409.

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