Spinning Violence: Examining Competing Discourses of State Force and Indigenous Identity in Mi'kma'ki, 2013

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Antoine, Derek




Violence features prominently in settler-colonization and Indigenous struggle, whether in brute physical manifestations or over discourses that discipline and regulate Indigenous lives. In 2013, land and water protectors on Mi'kma'ki territory stood against extractivist activities on their lands in the form of shale-gas exploration, and faced a violent early morning raid by the RCMP. This dissertation identifies and analyzes discourses of violence that emerged from Mi'kmaq defenders and state authorities during the conflict over land and water protection in 2013, asking whose interests were/were not being served in the discourses reproduced about projects of colonization and land/water protection. Further, it asks how discourses of violence are challenged or subverted and what hope they offer to ongoing projects of land and water protection. I rely on literature that theorizes violence within and outside of colonial contexts in order to adopt a multi-pronged analytic approach to violence that includes physical, symbolic, and systemic understandings and to explore how they manifest discursively. Further, I employ concepts of resurgence and refusal to help understand Indigenous responses to extraction activities on their territories and the discourses that emerge as a result. The methods used for this dissertation draw on Linda Tuhiwai Smith (1999) and Margaret Kovach's (2009) work, situating research with Indigenous peoples as a long-term relationship that begins before the research takes place and continues long after. Through an examination of state documents accessed through access to information requests, a review of related news coverage, and interviews and participant observation with community members, this dissertation notes the emergence of two competing discourses of violence. One discourse recognizes state-colonial violence and the violence caused by extractivist activities on Mi'kma'ki territory as the result of ongoing settler-colonialism. By contrast, another discourse emerges that describes Mi'kmaq reactions to extractivist activities on their ancestral territories as forms of violence against the state, and in a paternalistic turn, Mi'kmaq peoples themselves. Following a long historical pattern, this discourse of violence describes protectors as violent criminals, exacerbates divisions that leave little room for negotiation, and reinforces settler-colonial state governance over peaceful co-existence between sovereign peoples as outlined in treaty agreements.


Mass Communications
Native American Studies




Carleton University

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