1 October 2021

Recognition or Refusal? Cultural Politics in a Colonial Canada

Canada is often described as a democratic, “multicultural” nation whose political institutions are able to recognize a diversity of cultural identities and expressions. However, a growing number of Indigenous thinkers and activists are arguing that the politics of recognition through which the Canadian state engages with Indigenous communities, even where it is not overtly violent, remains colonial in dictating the terms of dialogue, typically in culturally and economically assimilating ways. Such Indigenous thinkers argue that Canada’s colonial politics of recognition must be rejected or refused, and in this way present a challenge both to Canada’s open and accommodating self-imaginary and to the liberal notions of culture and cultural diversity that have shaped Canadian political thought. In this course, we will first explore the theoretical underpinnings of the idea of recognition in some of its classical philosophical explorations, and then trace the application of this idea in Canadian political theory. We will then assess the adequacy of a liberal politics of recognition for addressing Indigenous-settler relationships in Canada. Here, our guide will be Glen Sean Coulthard’s 2014 work Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition, which applies the work of anticolonial theorist Frantz Fanon to Canada’s interaction with Indigenous communities. Reading Coulthard’s work alongside other Indigenous authors such as Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Taiaiake Alfred, we will explore the challenges involved in pursuing non-colonial forms of recognition, in relation to ideas such as freedom, rights, property, gender, and political speech. We will also explore how Indigenous authors and activists imagine alternative futures and practices of self-determination beyond the terms of Canadian nationalism.


Dr. Andrew Tebbutt ICS 153301 / 253301 W22 Remote (Online Synchronous) Day & Time TBD (MWS, MA, PhD) Syllabus Enrolment Notes: To register for this course, email academic-registrar@icscanada.edu. Last date to register January 14, 2022. Maximum enrolment of nine (9) students. ICS reserves the right to decline registrations. *Attention TST students: if you are interested in taking this course for credit, you must petition your college of registration to count the course credit toward your degree program.