Unsettling Geography: Exploring Truth and Reconciliation in Geography Departments at Canadian Universities

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White, Isaac
Truth and Reconciliation , Indigenous-settler relations , Settler colonialism , Neoliberal academy , Space-time geographies , Geographies of white supremacy , Decolonization , Foucauldian discourse analysis
From the onset of colonial exploration, professional and scholarly geographers have played a prominent role in establishing the systems of colonial and imperial expansion embedded in Indigenous dispossession and genocide, white settler supremacy and justified occupation on stolen Indigenous Lands. The discipline’s relationship to colonial and imperial power is not a thing of the past, Geography remains implicated in ongoing white settler colonialism. Given the discipline’s historical culpability and ongoing complicity in settler colonialism, Geography Departments at Canadian universities are situated in a unique position to implement the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action, decolonize the discipline, and reconcile their relationships to Indigenous peoples and the Land. The goal of my research was to understand the extent to which the TRC’s Calls to Action are understood and operationalized in Geography Departments and the discipline as a whole across Canada, and to identify any perceived barriers to engaging with the TRC’s recommendations in the Departments’ curricular, pedagogical, and or administrative spheres. What I found was that while Geography Department Heads stated that they had a responsibility to implement the Calls to Action, much of what had been achieved in Departments thus far is of a superficial scale. Moreover, there was great uncertainty as to when, the extent of time committed, and how Geography Departments would proceed in formalizing strategic frameworks to implement the TRC’s recommendations and decolonize the discipline. This thesis offers that operationalizing the Calls to Action and reconciling the discipline’s relationship to Indigenous peoples and the Land necessitates a decolonization of white settler-colonial market time, which is a single, homogenized, and western linear temporality structured on settler colonialism, capitalist modes of operation, and lifeforms that orient towards a white settler futurity. This thesis calls upon non-Indigenous settler geographers who occupy Geography Departments to take time away from their ‘status quo’ agendas and use that time to devise and implement plans that respond to the Calls to Action and advance the processes of reconciliation, decolonization, and Indigenization across the discipline.
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