Sherene Razack (ed) – Race, Space, and the Law

Citation: Razack, Sherene H. Race, Space, and the Law: Unmapping a White Settler Society. Toronto: Between the Lines Publishing, 2002.

Introduction: “When Place Becomes Race” (1-20).

Central to this book is the idea that spatial analysis is crucial for showing not only that Canada “continues to be structured by a racial hierarchy” (1) but for identifying the way that bodies and space construct race (and by extension, national belonging). Narratives about peaceful Canadians contending with the land, and eventually getting what they earned, are ultimately “racial stor[ies]” (2). Stories are spatialized in that they have an effect on how we think and where, when, and how frequently we move about – not to mention who gets to move.

Such unmapping might include asking how spaces came to be the way that they are (or seem to be), which can “undermine the idea of white settler innocence” and uncover “ideologies and practices of conquest and domination” (5).  Thinking spatially, involving a degree of specificity, allows for us to look at multiple and overlapping “systems of domination” by which white Europeans are afforded supremacy, and other / “othered” subjects end up subordinated along a spatial axes (eg. selling sex outside; being housed in boarding houses with their boss as their landlord; people who are invisible socially but centralized in terms of space) (6).

Because white settlers have accrued and continue to accrue their identities based on movement from one space to another, Razack is interested in how spatial analysis works to link spaces together; narratives (both national myths that we inherit and literature in the more conventional sense) guide the movements of colonizers. Space is, of course, linked to identity formation, and in narratives where the “Indian” becomes familiar to settlers, so does the settler become familiar to themselves as the civilizing force, and thus the more legitimate occupier of space. Subsequently, settler youth become settler adults who feel comfortable in their own skin as they traverse multiple boundaries, freely and without apprehension (in both senses of the word: there is no thought process, nor any agent of nation-state security to apprehend them on their journey).

Encountering stories of the white man righteously fending off the uncivilized Indian is a component of the settler’s “racial journey into personhood” (14). I actually really like this statement for a discussion of what viewing Inuit art in a museum might do to the discerning settler subject, the appreciator of exotic-but-homely art. Art appreciation, Razack allows me to considering, is a “civilizing ritual” of the settler subject.

Lawrence, Bonita. “Rewriting Histories of the Land: Colonization and Indigenous Resistance in Eastern Canada.”·

Canadians’ “self-image” requires that they erase the actual way that they acquired land here (23). The imposed voicelessness of Indigenous peoples is thus a spatial(ized) component of colonialism (24).

The constraints of academia are a technology of silence, particularly Anthropology and History, whereby Indigenous peoples need to adopt the benign language of the academy and not fully address “the devastating and ongoing implications of the policies and processes that are so neutrally described” (24). (A second problem is the fact that scholars in Eastern Canada consider Indigenous peoples to be virtually extinct) (24). ·

According to Lawrence, Indigenous peoples want to tell histories that “recover [their] stories of thepast” and “documen[t] processes of colonization from the perspectives of those who experienced it (25).   

Points of Importance/Interest:·

  • Relationship between narrative, citizen, and space
  • Connections with Thobani, Exalted Subjects, particularly as Razack shows some of the stakes of exaltation.
  • Razack doesn’t really get into how white domination avoids seeming to actually be about space, but instead about some intrinsic quality of which access to space and mobility is a perk.
  • Difference between Lawrence’s analysis and Canada’s recognition of Inuit (which seems to do something different by Canada’s compulsion to celebrate Inuit cultural production)
  • This article is really important for my field paper, especially because I’ll need to talk about the risks of not deferring to Indigenous knowledge (which might be a debate – to incorporate, ignore, or defer to it): that doing so presupposes a sort of intellectual and spiritual terra nullius.  



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