‘Investment’ is not self-determination: Recovering Subjects: Robyn Green, Investment in an Era of Reconciliation, PhD Dissertation, Carleton University, 2016
Abstract: This doctoral project examines reconciliation and how Canada’s Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (2005) was designed to provide reparations to former students who were harmed in residential schools. In the past three decades, many Indigenous leaders and organizations identified a need for public investment to address historical injustice. In response, settler governments reframe these demands as opportunities for economic investment that are guaranteed to produce self-esteem and social inclusion for Indigenous peoples. This dissertation documents and problematizes an ideological shift whereby demands for redress and restitution give way to an investment rationale that is used to bypass demands for self-determination (Green 2015). Therefore, in this study I ask: how do investment discourses structure Indigenous-settler relationships? What is specific about the application of investment rationale when deployed during redress and reconciliation processes? In order to answer these questions I use a multi-site methodology to examine material and symbolic reparations, such as the Independent Assessment Process, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and therapeutic health supports. I draw on governmentality literatures to argue that an investment rationale disciplines individual compensation claimants through categories of harm and legal accounting processes to construct Indigenous subjects as dysfunctional and wage employment as emancipatory. I then examine how Indigenous health supports are subject to disinvestment, which effectively marginalizes Indigenous conceptualizations of health that privilege self-determination. Finally, I explore how the Truth and Reconciliation Commission routinely valorizes “mutually beneficial partnerships” as a template for contemporary Indigenous-settler relationships. My analysis thus contributes to the field of settler colonial studies and reveals how investment rationale is deployed to contain the cost of reparations and to create a politics of exchange where a return can be recovered from monies allotted to reparative strategies. The expected return that is desired by the settler state is, ultimately, the assimilation of Indigenous peoples’ into neoliberal citizenship.
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