Glen Coulthard

Associate Professor

Relevant Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Mar 2019)
Shattering glass boxes : museums and Dene resurgence against the colonial politics of recognition (2015)

In aiming to dispossess Indigenous peoples from their land and destroy their cultures, settler colonialism increasingly operates by “recognizing” and appropriating Indigenous identities into dominant national narratives. However, Indigenous peoples globally have found numerous ways to unsettle colonial powers, including claiming and reclaiming cultural practices in formerly colonial institutions such as museums. This dissertation examines the role of museums in perpetuating and opposing settler colonialism in Canada. First, I critique museums as forwarding settler colonial narrative and material violence against Indigenous peoples. Second, I examine the ways that Indigenous peoples have been engaging in museum spaces in order to “turn away” from the colonial politics of recognition. This dissertation engages with literature in political theory, critical museum studies, Indigenous political thought, and the colonial politics of recognition. In the first two chapters I examine three logics of settler colonialism: disappearance, appropriation and obfuscation. I put this theoretical framework in conversation with three case studies. I look at the 1988 exhibition “The Spirit Sings: Artistic Traditions of Canada’s First Peoples” to examine the turn towards the settler colonial politics of recognition. The second case study, a multi-sited exhibition called “De T’a Hoti Ts’eeda: We live securely by the land” (Yellowknife and Ottawa) and “Extremes: Life in Subarctic Canada,” (Edinburgh) is used to think through multiple experiences of collaborative exhibition. The third case study is the “Gwich’in Caribou Skin Clothing Project” (2000-2003), exemplifying the role of knowledge repatriation projects for supporting Indigenous decolonial resurgence. The final two chapters of the dissertation examine how Indigenous peoples relationships with museums counter the logics of settler colonialism. I use the collection of Athabaskan Dene objects at the National Museums Scotland (Edinburgh) and the “nation-to-nation” relationship established between the Tłı̨chǫ Government and the museum as exemplary of relationships exogenous to settler colonial domination. Second, drawing on Hegel’s master/slave dialectic I offer a theory of “labour against recognition,” where the process of making objects is generative of relationships that simultaneously turn away from the colonial politics of recognition and foster a decolonial politics of Indigenous resurgence.

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The devil’s northern triangle : Howard Adams and Métis multidimensional relationships with and within colonialism (2015)

This dissertation deploys the life’s work of Métis scholar and activist Howard Adams to show that his binaristic positioning of Métis people within the colonial world is first productive for elucidating and analyzing the devastation wrought on his people by the processes of colonization, and second an incomplete analysis of Métis political relationships with and within colonialism. Adams’ thought contains an uncomfortable positioning whereby the Métis are framed as colonized subjects while also being the products of the racist and destructive processes of colonialism. Adams does not interrogate this uncomfortable positioning in his work. Instead, he reinforces Métis people as exclusively colonized subjects. This dissertation posits that being the products of colonialism while also being colonized subjects opens a space to examine the range of relationships Métis people have with their kin in other Indigenous nations. I argue that looking at inter-Indigenous politics through this complex positioning shows how Métis interact and resist the ideology and processes of colonialism that seek to terminate and dispossess them from their territories, while also illuminating the way Métis political actors engage in zero-sum—and in some cases, colonial—relationships with other Indigenous peoples. I examine this through the critical juncture formed during the Red River Resistance in 1869-70: in the process of resisting the advancement of the Settler state, Métis political actors attempted to set up a sphere of power at Red River to the exclusion of most other Indigenous peoples. I then examine the reproduction of the legacy of zero-sum relationships in the formation and breakup of the Indian and Métis Conference (forerunner to the Manitoba Métis Federation), followed by the attempt by Métis and other Indigenous peoples to strategically deploy the law. The examination of these strategic deployments is informed by the interaction between Métis and Treaty 1 peoples at the Manitoba Court of Appeal hearing of MMF v. Canada. I conclude that embracing the discomfort in Adams’ positioning helps inform Métis political engagements with other Indigenous peoples. The benefit of this positioning is that it contributes to building informed inter-Indigenous decolonizing movements.  

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Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
Transformative justice : the unforgiving and societal repair (2012)

In both the discourse and practice of transitional justice the act of individual forgiveness has become conflated with the process of political reconciliation. The effect has been to delegitimize the political space for those who identify as unforgiving or resentful. Despite a lack of empirical evidence illustrating the consequence of forgiveness on the political landscape, forgiveness continues to be promoted in transitional justice narratives as though it necessarily advances the process of political reconciliation. In other words, it is perceived as having a social utility. This presumed collective benefit allows forgiveness discourse to overshadow the concerns that imposing forgiveness may have negative effects on individual survivors and communities transitioning away from mass violence. Using the data from South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Barometer, this work uses binomial logit to question the uninterrogated assumption that unforgiving attitudes represent a barrier to political reconciliation. Showing that it is possible to be both unforgiving and supportive of political reconciliation, this piece argues that the unforgiving also play a critical role in reconciliation processes. This work rejects forgiveness as an a priori good; showing the important role resentment and the reservation of forgiveness can play in demanding accountability and transformation. The testimony of the unforgiving possess a transformative capacity that is silenced by discourse and practices that conflate forgiveness with reconciliation. This serves to undermine the opportunity to generate transformed relationships through transitional processes. I argue here for the reclaiming of political space for the voices of the unforgiving and resentful in order to restore dignity to survivors and create the room for transformation of structures and relationships.

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Cultureless Rights (2010)

No abstract available.

Pipe dreaming : federalism and northern environmental policy (2010)

The Canadian North poses a clear illustration of the struggle for sustainable developmentin a context of advanced capitalism. How do northern political institutions and electoralincentives impact the relationships between federal, territorial and aboriginalgovernments in the field of environmental policy and the prospects of environmentalprotection? This paper will argue that negotiations for the devolution of resources andenvironmental activities with low economic significance have borne substantially morefruit, more quickly, than the sticky issues of non-renewable resource exploitation andimpact assessment. Case work of select northern environmental policy suggests that thepublic interest eithe favours utilization of northern resources for economic developmentor is insufficiently green to overcome collective action problems beyond symboliccommitments to environmental protection.

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