Edited By George J. Sefa Dei and Meredith Lordan
Chapter Ten: Objects of Settlement: Excavating Colonial Narratives
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Objects OF Settlement
Excavating Colonial Narratives
Archaeological excavation has played a central role in the construction of historical narratives across various settler-colonial contexts. The ‘neutral’ and sanitized scientific analyses of historical artifacts produce narratives of dominance that enact and enable colonial dispossession. Anibal Quijano (2007) and Audra Simpson (2007) provide insight into the ways in which ‘neutral language’ is constitutive of coloniality. Coloniality, in turn, works to conceal violence by disavowing its own interest in upholding scientific discourse. This chapter looks at the ways in which archaeology and anthropology are complicit in—and constitutive of—settler-colonial narratives that obscure the presence and vitality of Indigenous communities.
Looking at archaeology in Palestine and Ontario will shed light on how scientific discourses serve colonial interests in disparate contexts. The chapter takes up the work of Nadia Abu El-Haj (2001), who analyzes the ways archaeology serves settler-colonial narratives in Palestine, looking at how Jewish histories are upheld within a teleology that is founded on the erasure of Palestinian Indigeneity. In Ontario, archaeology serves to locate Indigenous ‘culture’ and peoples within a past that is, as Sherene Razack (2012, p. 908) has argued, “intrinsically vulnerable.” Understanding how coloniality dialectically informs archaeological discourses, this discussion looks at the politics of repatriation of Indigenous artifacts that have surfaced over the past two and a half decades. In Canada, the reconciliatory politics of recognition have recently come to...
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