Unsettling Hope: Settler Colonialism and Utopianism
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This dissertation locates the manifold concept of utopia as imbricated with the project of English settler colonialism in the New World and the succeeding settler colonial societies of Canada and the US. I situate Thomas More’s Utopia as an early modern narrative that was mobilized to articulate notions of transcendental progress and universal rationality commensurate with Christian Humanism, which served to justify expropriation of Indigenous lands. I further locate contemporary Indigenous critical theoretical interventions into longstanding scholarly theories of nation and peoplehood. I argue that Indigenous critical theory, literary studies, and works of Indigenous speculative fiction serve an immanent critique to the settler utopian traditions of Canada and the US, which both reflect and further the naturalization of settler colonialism as an enduring force which frames the contemporary experience of globalization. This immanent critique is also applied to contemporary utopian studies discourses, including emergent discussions of “Non-Western” and “postcolonial” utopias. I proceed to an exploration of contemporary speculative narratives of Indigenous, racialized non-Native, and white settler peoples concerned with varying notions of indigneity. I argue such narratives propose desirable social change in ways that further naturalize or resist settler colonialism in their respective envisages of the future.