‘Indian Nullification’ actually says it: Adam Dahl, ‘Nullifying Settler Democracy: William Apess and the Paradox of Settler Sovereignty’, Polity, 21/03/16
Abstract: This essay examines the concept of “Indian nullification” in the political writings of William Apess by situating his defense of native self-determination in the context of debates about the legitimacy of nullification in U.S. constitutionalism. It illustrates how Indian nullification operates, not as a feature of constitutional design asserting minority rights over the tyranny of the majority, but rather as a rhetorical form of political contestation exposing the constitutive exclusions of American settler democracy. Apess illuminates how constitutional ideals of popular sovereignty cohere around regimes of settler colonialism and indigenous dispossession, highlighting the paradox of settler sovereignty that provides the basis for American democracy. Indian nullification is not a simple demand that the boundaries of liberal citizenship be expanded to include Indians. It is a way of narrating and rhetorically representing the forms of settler conquest that establish the material and conceptual foundation of popular self-rule for white settlers.
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