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Unsettling Expectations: (Un)certainty, Settler States of Feeling, Law, and Decolonization1

  • Eva Mackey (a1)


Guaranteeing “certainty” (for governments, business development, society, etc.) is often the goal of state land rights settlements with Indigenous peoples in Canada. Certainty is also often seen as an unequivocally desirable and positive state of affairs. This paper explores how certainty and uncertainty intersect with the challenges of decolonization in North America. I explore how settler certainty and entitlement to Indigenous land has been constructed in past colonial and current national laws, land policies, and ideologies. Then, drawing on data from fieldwork among activists against land rights, I argue that their deep anger about their uncertainty regarding land and their futures helps to reveal how certainty and entitlement underpin “settler states of feeling” (Rifkin). If one persistent characteristic of settler colonialism is settler certainty and entitlement, then decolonization, both for settlers and for jurisprudence, may therefore mean embracing uncertainty. I conclude by discussing the relationship between certainty, uncertainty, and decolonization.

Garantir une « certitude » (pour les gouvernements, le développement d’entreprises, la société, etc.) est souvent le but des accords sur les revendications territoriales avec les peuples autochtones au Canada. La certitude est souvent perçue aussi comme étant une situation, sans équivoque, désirable et positive. Cet article explore comment la certitude et l’incertitude recoupent les défis associés à la décolonisation en Amérique du Nord. J’explore comment la certitude des colons ainsi que les droits aux terres autochtones ont été élaborés au sein des lois coloniales du passé, des lois nationales courantes, des politiques foncières, et des idéologies. Par la suite, puisant sur des données de terrain de militants opposés aux revendications territoriales, je soutiens que la colère profonde qu’ils éprouvent face à l’incertitude de leurs terres et de leur future révèle comment les « sentiments de colons » (Rifkin) sont renforcés par la certitude et les droits territoriaux. Si l’une des caractéristiques persistantes du colonialisme de peuplement est la certitude des colons ainsi que leurs droits territoriaux, alors la décolonisation pourrait donc signifier, pour les colons et la jurisprudence, que l’on accepte l’incertitude. Je termine en abordant la relation entre la certitude, l’incertitude et la décolonisation.



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Canadian Journal of Law and Society / La Revue Canadienne Droit et Société
  • ISSN: 0829-3201
  • EISSN: 1911-0227
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-of-law-and-society-la-revue-canadienne-droit-et-societe
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