Introduction to Unsettled (Sept 24, 2015)

In the closing pages of his book Red Skin White Masks, Glen Coulthard argues: “For Indigenous nations to live, capitalism must die. And for capitalism to die, we must actively participate in the construction of Indigenous alternatives to it.” [1] I start with Coulthard’s text because it's grounded in a holistic critique of Canada as a settler state. Coulthard’s critique of Canada as a settler-state narrows to name the enemy: capitalism. He does not apologize for this, he does not try to skirt the fact that the enemy is big, instead he names it and offers solution: reject capitalism and seek out alternatives because anything less threatens life. Without dedicating endless pages to the practices of solidarity and allyship, Coulthard makes his call to settlers and indigenous readers alike. Such is the case for Harsha Walia as she reminds us that the terms of resistance involve alternative acts and dreaming. She writes:

I think that the notion of dreaming in a time when we are told that it is foolish, futile, or not useful is one of the most revolutionary things we can do. To have our lives determined by our dreams of a free world—instead of reactions to a state-imposed reality—is one the most powerful tools of decolonization. I dream of a community and a world where our lives can be determined by our own means. To live in a world where our actions are guided by mutual respect, and the understanding that our struggles for decolonization are different yet connected. [2]

This blog will be about dreaming and thinking about alternatives to the current state of things in the settler state which is a collective enterprise predicated on solidarity.

Fredy Perlman joins the anarchist tradition when he made his call for solidarity achieved through a collective rejection of capitalism. He stated, “the task of capitalist ideology is to maintain the veil which keeps people seeing that their own activities reproduce the form of their daily life; the task of critical theory is to unveil the activities of daily life, to render them transparent, to make the production of the social form of capitalism activity visible within people’s daily activities.” [3] Thinking about Perlman with Coulthard, we have texts that demand we actively unveil capitalism and the correlating violence. Coulthard’s text seeks to push a Marxist analysis in Canada precisely because the colonial context necessarily reshapes an analysis and critique of capitalism. Perlman highlights the capacity for subjects to unveil. Walia, dares us to dream a new world, a world without border imperialism in which no one is illegal — a status that is fraught with state interventions but with capitalism's fingerprints clearly evident. From the three together there is a call to reject capitalism, to move in solidarity and dream of a different world guided by alternative sensibilities that reject coercion and violence.

Changing Suns Press takes its name from a passage from Pierre Clastres, a political theorist and anthropologist committed to better understanding how social organization can occur without coercion. Looking for another way to think about state power and societies that live without a state, he starts Societies Against the State with a provocative question: “Can serious questions about power be asked?” He illustrated in his own work that, yes, the question can be asked. Asked, and answered. People can live without the coercive powers that most often govern our daily lives.

This is the starting point to be Unsettled.

This blog is informed by the blended analysis of Coulthard, Perlman, Clastres and perhaps most of all Walia--who calls for us to dream a better world. The blog will explore contemporary events and practices that, at times, will illustrate the challenge of seeking out alternatives; the blog will also investigate the ways in which groups and individuals are actively carving out practices outside of the coercion and violence that are enacted daily through the practices of global capitalism and North American settler-state.

I have called this blog “unsettled” to mark a space that lacks resolution. Resolution on many fronts: I write this blog as a settler living in Canada. As a settler living in Treaty Four Territory, I also write as someone that teaches regularly about the ways in which treaties have not been honored in Canada and the continued occupation of unceded territory across Canada and through the Americas. The blog will focus primarily on issues in settler states with attention to alternative practices that can address the varied forms of structural inequality and systemic racism that facilitate ongoing oppression. In so doing, I will attend to Perlman’s analysis that demands we unveil the practices but join in Coulthard’s call to not only name capitalism as the primary enemy that sits at that gate but also the need to identify alternatives — to resist, to act, to dream — lest all we are left with is endless critique which becomes its own economy carrying varied levels of violence.


Posted on September 24, 2015 .