Ineyak / lepblo / lepblo siha / politiku / Uncategorized

Red Skin, White Masks by Glen Coulthard

Glen Coulthard’s book Red Skin, White Masks is an incredibly important work for the present situation that many indigenous people find themselves in. Coulthard precisely identifies the shape-shifting character of colonialism from a interlocking process that aims to exclude and assimilate to one that recognizes and accommodates. Despite this change in the colonial mechanism, Coulthard argues that “regardless of this modification, however, the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the state has remained colonial to its foundation.” This insight alone reminded of everything we have discussed in class so far from federal recognition to compacts of free association. The deceit inherent in these processes is their seemingly more innocent appearance. I am reminded me of christianity in this particular sense. The god of the old testament was obviously and visibly cruel with acts ranging from the plagues to jealous acts of rage to the flood. Then, Jesus comes along and appears to be god 2.0, post anger management therapy. Yet, the violences of christianity still exist and are continuously perpetuated today. Along similar lines, with Coulthard offering us this insight, it allows us as indigenous communities to work towards dismantling colonialism in its various manifestations from its violent face to its smoother accommodating skin.

From this, Coulthard goes a step further and asks, “What are we to make of contexts where state violence no longer constitutes the regulative norm governing the process of colonial dispossession?” In order to answer this question, he turns to Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks. Fanon argues that in these contexts, colonizers maintain their power through the production of colonial subjectivity and “psycho-affective attachments.” Coulthard and Fanon then go on to describe the important conjunctions and distinctions between the subjective and objective levels of colonialism. The subjective level of colonialism refers to these psycho-affective attachments, while the objective level of colonialism refers to the socioeconomic structure. These two processes are intertwined and Fanon argues that the psychological terrain of colonialism cannot be decoupled from its material foundation. Attempts to decolonize should not focus on only one of these two processes, but concentrate on dismantling them concurrently. We must not make the assumption that working on the subjective level will necessarily affect the objective level because the psychological component can be affected without any change in the economic infrastructure, which may not further the cause of decolonization.

Coulthard makes the main point that a way out of this liberal recognition paradigm is to recognize ourselves through indigenous resurgence. On a psycho-affective level, this helps to reverse the “naturalness” of the colonial condition. Unlike Fanon, Coulthard argues that turning to the past to inform the present is a desirable step. At the end of the book, Coulthard provides his five different theses on indigenous resurgence that may help dismantle the objective levels of colonialism along with the subjective: direct action, dismantling capitalism, the place of indigenous people in cities, gender justice, and lastly moving beyond the nation-state. These resurgent alternatives to recognition paradigms are already being enacted in our various communities, but I think an important question to ask is, “What location and community-specific alterations would we make to this list? Also, would it be wise to look at the specificities of our communities and prioritize any of these things over others? Would that be an effective thing to do or may it cause more problems?”


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