The other ‘Dominion’: Dan Freeman-Maloy, ‘The international politics of settler self-governance: reflections on Zionism and ‘Dominion’ status within the British empire’, Settler Colonial Studies,2016

26Jun16

Abstract: Before falling into disuse towards the middle of the twentieth century, the term ‘Dominion’ connoted the autonomous status of select polities on the British Empire’s geographic periphery (and Ireland). This concept factored into British discourse as the extension of liberal norms of self-government. Originally associated with the British-majority settler states of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, Dominion status was in turn extended to the South African Union in 1910. Advocates for a similar form of ‘self-governance’ sought to see the example emulated elsewhere in Africa and, through the Zionist enterprise, in the Middle East. The reluctance of historians of the British Empire to examine the structural manifestations of racism in British policy has obscured the significance of the Dominion concept and its historical evolution. Settler self-governance within the British sphere is still often framed in terms of liberal conceptions of ‘responsible government’, as Lord Durham phrased it his Report on the Affairs of British North America. However, self-government on the Empire’s periphery was a patently exclusionist and racialised practice. Its exclusionist bounds were not so narrow as the Anglo-Saxonist racism that first marked its introduction. By the early twentieth century, French-speaking Canadians and Boers alike were sharing in the enterprise of British representative government. The bounds of exclusion were nonetheless unmistakable. Today, it is in respectable circles no longer acceptable to present settler rule on the African continent as a liberal enterprise. Yet the histories of the original Dominions and of the Zionist enterprise continue to be distorted by intellectuals leveraging an exclusionist politics of self-representation. The valorisation of Israel in particular through claimed rights to self-determination should prompt renewed engagement with this history. The invocation of the Dominions’ example by an earlier generation of pro-Zionist advocates speaks to a shared history that demands critical attention.



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