Unsettling the Land

Indigeneity, Ontology, and Hybridity in Settler Colonialism

in Environment and Society
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ABSTRACT

This article examines different ontologies of land in settler colonialism and Indigenous movements for decolonization and environmental justice. Settler ontologies of land operate by occluding other modes of perceiving, representing, and experiencing land. Indigenous ontologies of land are commonly oriented around relationality and reciprocal obligations among humans and the other-than-human. Drawing together scholarship from literatures in political economy, political ecology, Indigenous studies, and post-humanism, we synthesize an approach to thinking with land to understand structures of dispossession and the possibilities for Indigenous revitalization through ontological hybridity. Using two different case studies—plantation development in Indonesia and land revitalization in the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Nation—we further develop how settler and Indigenous ontologies operate on the ground, illuminating the coexistence of multiple ontologies of land. Given the centrality of land in settler colonialism, hybrid ontologies are important to Indigenous movements seeking to simultaneously strengthen sovereignty over territory and revitalize land-based practices.

Contributor Notes

PAUL BERNE BUROW is a PhD student in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Department of Anthropology at Yale University. His research interests include the political ecology of forests and rangelands, the cultural politics of nature and belonging, and the history of conservation and settler colonialism in western North America. Email: paul.burow@yale.edu

SAMARA BROCK is pursuing her PhD in political ecology at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She has worked for more than a decade on food sustainability issues in Canada, Argentina, and Cuba, and past research has focused on counter-mapping as a form of resistance and sustainable diets. Her current research focuses on networks of experts that have emerged since the 2008 food crisis and are attempting to shape the future of global food systems. Email: samara.brock@yale.edu

MICHAEL R. DOVE is the Margaret K. Musser Professor of Social Ecology, Curator of Anthropology in the Peabody Museum of Natural History, Chair of the Council on Southeast Asia Studies, and Professor in the Department of Anthropology, Yale University. His most recent books are Climate Cultures: Anthropological Perspectives on Climate Change (coedited with Jessica Barnes, Yale University Press, 2015); Science, Society, and Environment: Applying Physics and Anthropology to Sustainability (coauthored with Daniel M. Kammen, Routledge, 2015); and The Anthropology of Climate Change: A Historical Reader (editor, Wiley-Blackwell, 2014). Email: michael.dove@yale.edu

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