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Everything to Lose: The Settler Colonial Stakes of The Revenant

February 28, 2016


by K2

One thing is crystal clear from 20th Century Fox’s new blockbuster hit The Revenant: settler lives matter. Hugh Glass, the 19th century American frontiersman played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is so incredibly immune to death that he rises from his own grave after having been torn to shreds by a grizzly at the film’s outset. The signature series of shots that every spectator is sure to remember – DiCaprio’s own breath fogging up the camera lens as he stares down its chamber – constitutes such an essential element of the film’s aesthetic that one is led to believe that Leonardo’s own life (or maybe just his Oscar) is on the line. My claim, then, is that The Revenant is first and foremost a story of settler survival and is therefore not without its settler colonial stakes.


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“This olive tree that prays to God, what did it do?”: On the BDS Campaign and Israel

February 23, 2016

On February 18, 2016, the Conservative Party of Canada proposed a parliamentary motion[i]:

That, given Canada and Israel share a long history of friendship as well as economic and diplomatic relations, the House reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.

The Liberals have said they will support it in a vote, which will be held on February 22, 2016.[ii] [Editor’s note: The proposed motion was passed on Feb. 22 by a vote of 229-51As a person with Jewish ancestry living in Canada, I felt compelled to respond, but my own words proved insufficient to the task. Instead, I have produced a collage of others’ words to craft a story, the collective impact of which far exceeds anything I could produce alone. All italics are direct quotations; the full list of sources is in the endnotes, and links to the original sources are provided where possible. Non-italicized parts are my own words (to the extent that anything is ever our own).

*          *         *

‘i’m not that kind of jew,’ she says. ‘ok,’ I said, ‘me neither.’

“Zionist” has become the hateful code word for “Jew”.[iii]

We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch…we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.[iv]

The rise of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activities in academia begs for an effective strategy to prepare Jewish students to fight BDS on college campuses before they go to college. Getting Jewish teens to Israel en masse, combined with Israel advocacy training in local communities before they go to college, is the only shot we have to build an army of ‘boots on the ground’ on college campuses.[v]

It is especially painful for left-leaning Jewish-Israelis, because we believe so wholeheartedly that we already know about inequality, how bad it is and what should be done about it.[vi]

are we the Chosen People? to wit: ‘As a Jew, I have a responsibility to defend Israel – its Jewish demographic advantage, and its right to defend itself from Palestinian threats.’ ‘As a Jew, I have a responsibility to critique Israel and support Palestine, based on both Jewish values, and given what happened to us in the Shoah.’ two sides, same coin? Read more…

On the spatial and temporal intersectionality of freedom movements: A review of Angela Davis’ “Freedom is a Constant Struggle”

February 22, 2016

by Eric Ritskes


Angela Y. Davis (2016). Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books. ** 158 pp. **

I want to emphasize the importance of approaching both our theoretical explorations and our movement activism in ways that enlarge and expand and complicate and deepen our theories and practices of freedom. (p. 104)

The title of the newest entry in Angela Davis’ body of work, Freedom is a Constant Struggle, simultaneously evokes both resignation and hope, both critique and inspiration. And, as Davis looks back at her decades of involvement in Black, global freedom movements, as well as at the futures of these movements, these tensions are apparent.

Cover.jpgFor those who are familiar with and follow Davis’ recent work, this book – drawn from a series of interviews with Frank Barat, and from a few of her recent speeches – provides little new content. Its accessible style and format is wide ranging in topic, especially in the early chapters drawn from the interviews, and at times the conversation feels disjointed; in part, owing to interview questions which jump around, often without transition, from Palestine to prison abolition to Black power to Obama to feminism. Each individual topic unto itself is underdeveloped, limited by space and format.

Yet, taken as a whole, the book offers a clarion call to our various freedom movements; it is a necessarily urgent call for the intersectionality needed to foster and grow organized grassroots movements against global oppression and terror. As Davis emphasizes a number of times throughout the book, this book is a call for “not so much intersectionality of identities, but intersectionality of struggles” (p. 144). In connecting Ferguson and other Black radical struggles to Palestine (primarily), she expansively opens up her book as a discussion on what it will take to end racism and colonialism and patriarchy, what it will take to abolish prisons, value transgender people, and end the death penalty in the United States. As she writes, in regards to these diverse issues: “They [aren’t] separate in our bodies, but also they are not separate in terms of struggle” (p. 19).

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Hip Hop for a Different Future

February 19, 2016

The creation of the rhythm is a process of cutting and looping, of sonic rupture in the break – and “In those breaks we witness resistant voices that refuse to be silenced” (Martineau & Ritskes, 2014). Hip hop aesthetic and knowledge, as Mark Campbell argues, needs to be implemented in our broader political life – a way of being that embraces the sonic ruptures of colonial sense making and “destabilize[s] our socially constructed boundaries.”

What does it mean, then, to understand hip hop as “anti-racist and de-colonial, as a cultural movement, art form, educational philosophy and way of being”?

Decolonization is honored to be collaborating with the Multi-Faith Centre, First Nations House, Hart House and the Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office to host a series of discussions that further examine themes of decolonization, spirituality, and social transformation, information about these events can be found here.

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Special Issue: Indigenous Peoples and the Politics of Water

February 3, 2016
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Download a shareable PDF of this Call for Submissions here:

The Politics of Water- Special Issue – Decolonization

Title: Indigenous Peoples and The Politics of Water

Editors: Melanie K. Yazzie (University of New Mexico) and Dr. Cutcha Risling Baldy (San Diego State University)

Abstracts Due: April 4, 2016

Submissions Due: August 31, 2016



Call for Submissions



[Feb 3, 2016] Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society invites articles from scholars, artists, activists, policy makers, and community members for a special issue of the journal exploring Indigenous peoples and the politics of water. Water is an ancient and sacred element of Indigenous epistemologies and ways of life. Water sustains, builds and inspires. In the contemporary context climate change, water security, and environmental destruction have captivated popular attention. A proliferation of scholarly and public works, as well as (inter)governmental working groups and summits, have emerged to address these interrelated issues. We acknowledge the importance of these approaches to understanding and analyzing water. However, this issue is more concerned with the social and political properties of water than with identifying and articulating Indigenous “cultural” or “traditional” conceptions of water, or mainstream approaches that address water through frameworks of supply and demand, science, security, crisis, and scarcity.

Instead, we seek contributions that foreground critical historical, theoretical, and empirical approaches to understanding the politics of water. We contend that struggles over water figure centrally in salient concerns about self-determination, sovereignty, nationhood, autonomy, resistance, survival, and futurity that drive Indigenous political and intellectual work. In recent history, we have seen water assume a distinct and prominent role in Indigenous political formations. Recent examples range from the August 2015 Gold King Mine Spill, which dumped over three million gallons of toxic waste into the San Juan River and devastated Navajo farming communities in the northern part of the Navajo Nation to the continuing water struggles in California, and the water security issues that face First Nations peoples dealing with resource extraction in Canada. Indigenous peoples around the world are forced to formulate innovative and powerful responses to the contamination, exploitation, and theft of water, even as they are silenced or dismissed by genocidal schemes reproduced through legal, corporate, state, and academic means.

We also recognize that the politics of water is deeply intertwined with contemporary water security and policy issues that affect both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples around the world. The responses and efforts to control water in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities have been consistently designed to serve the imperatives of settler colonialism. Indigenous analyses of these global issues in water politics are key–whether at grassroots, institutional, or governmental levels– to challenging, refusing, and revising the violence of such imperatives and building a better future.

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Can the Other of Native Studies Speak?

February 1, 2016

by Billy-Ray Belcourt


Revolution will come in a form we cannot yet imagine

– Jack Halbertstam [1]

Like Judith Butler, I want to begin with a beginning. [2] At a session during the 2015 gathering of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association in Toronto, Dana Wesley asked panellists, panellists who were bent on teasing apart the matterings – indeed the matter of – the future for Indigenous peoples, if queer, trans, and two-spirit life would dwell inside that imagining. The question was answered with silence, posited in and as the negative space against which that world would, like this one, be demarcated. Perhaps the question was incoherent; the asker, and the life-forms she pointed to, could not be recognized as selves who could indeed question. Perhaps we wouldn’t, she answered. It was as if the question hadn’t been asked at all.

That negative space, something of a surrounding, to use Heidegger’s language, binds together queer Indigenous peoples not properly peopled in a purely metaphysical realm. The surrounding is where life is lived by those for whom the world isn’t theirs, and, in this, are blocked from dwelling “in the overtness of being.” [3] These are queernesses that exist outside the traditional and the identitarian borders of indigeneity, ones that the past cannot make sense of because they emerge in the most unexpected places. It is in the unthinkability between queer and Indigenous that some of us stage our lives. We are both nothing and everything at the same time.

This is for those for whom the past has never safely held up their world.

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“In search of our better selves:” Mad Max: Fury Road as Totem Transfer Narrative

January 21, 2016

by Dallas Hunt



With the recent announcement that Mad Max: Fury Road has been nominated for ten Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, the film has gained renewed interest. While the movie has been critically dissected ad naseum, being hailed simultaneously as both a “feminist masterpiece” and a film (mostly) devoid of Indigenous peoples and people of colour, I want to take a different, though related, approach to the film’s politics, focusing specifically on the way it may reproduce colonial tropes of Indigenous disappearance.

The movie’s director, George Miller, who has a real possibility of taking home the Best Director prize in February, has called the film “a western on wheels.” Miller is not alone in designating the film in this way, as several high-profile critics have done the same. Indeed, with the “circle the wagons” and wagon trail imagery of the film, it is by no means a stretch of the imagination to view it through this lens.

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