jimmy johnson reviews studies in settler colonialism
Gabriel Piterberg noted in his masterful 2008 book The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics and Scholarship in Israel that the “achievements of the comparative study of settler colonialism have been at once scholarly and political,” that the young field “creates a language that amounts to a transformative alternative to the way in which these settler societies narrate themselves in their own words.”
Yet, like many academic fields, comparative settler-colonial studies has a difficult time translating into the sphere of organizing for policy change. The bridge between the academic and activist worlds is mostly missing. So one purpose of reviewing books such as the newly released collection Studies in Settler Colonialism for The Electronic Intifada is to help bridge the gap between the grassroots and the “ivory tower.”
Comparative settler-colonial studies carries tremendous potential for anti-colonial organizing in Palestine (as well as in countries that are the products of a settler-led colonization such as the US, Canada and Australia). Its baseline understanding is, as Piterberg put it, “the history of the interaction with the dispossessed is the history of who the settlers collectively are,” indigenous removal being the sine qua non of creating a settler society. In short, the field does not stop with describing the events of settler colonization. Instead it describes the political structure, settler colonialism, that endures long after the initial colonizing events. The field is vibrant but small, making Studies in Settler Colonialism: Politics, Identity and Culture an important addition to a growing body of work.
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