Colonial and Racial Encounters in Development Discourse

Friday May 20 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm (Eastern Daylight Time)
Virtual Platform

Session Code: DEV1
Session Format: Regular Session
Session Language: English, French
Research Cluster Affiliation: Sociology of Development
Session Categories: Regular Session

This session features works that explore questions around one or more of (but not limited to) the following themes: the intersection of neoliberal development and settler colonialism; the racialized consequences of land-grabbing or foreign investment in tourism; the relationship between colonial histories and ideologies and present-day dominant development models; racist discourses underpinning territorial conflicts with indigenous or Afro-descendent communities; environmental racism in development projects; the racial dimensions of development-induced gender violence; and racial identity as a means of resistance. Tags: Development and Globalization, Equality and Inequality, Race and Ethnicity, Theory

Organizer: Liam Swiss, Memorial University


Isra Saymour, University of Toronto

The Oilfields of Mesopotamia: Resource Conflict, Oil Extraction, and Heritage Dispossession in Iraq

The 2003 invasion of Iraq, led by the U.S. Coalition forces, is amongst the most politically and culturally significant events of the twenty-first century. Research across disciplines has linked the war to ongoing colonial and imperial regimes of oil extraction, which, in West and Central Asia, take the form of exploitive structures in the guise of political and economic “development”. And while a significant body of work in the social sciences casts light on the role of oil in fuelling war and ongoing instabilities in the region, as well as its connections to discourses of “freedom” and “democracy,” less attention has been paid to how resource conflicts in Iraq spill into social and cultural realms that are purportedly unconnected to oil, and the colonial implications of this. This paper attends to a particularly significant one of these realms: the looting and destruction of the cultural heritage of Iraq, and the immaterial social, cultural, and political consequences for the Iraqi people. Drawing on a multidisciplinary array of secondary sources, the current analysis links oil, conflict, and culture against a (neo)colonial backdrop to illustrate that Operation Iraqi Freedom was a resource war that targeted both natural and cultural resources, leading to the parallel extraction and displacement of oil and heritage. The passive and active destruction of cultural heritage dispossessed the Iraqi people of thier autonomy and capacity for political mobilization, a strategy that allowed the establishment of a stable regime of oil extraction. This analysis presents a new reading and conceptualization of oil, heritage, and ecologies of plunder to demonstrate the ways that resource “development” works to reproduce and reinforce colonial and imperial power relations through violence and dispossession.

Samuel Cohn, Texas A and M University

Coercive Capitalism on the Frontier

Frontiers are integral to the reproduction of capitalism. Ecological Marxists argue that the resource base of “old” locations of capitalist production become exhausted. Spatial fixes are essential. Frontiers and old locations of production have different rules. Land has to be alienated from indigenous residents. This may or may not be violent. Labor is scarce on frontiers. This leads to; Use of Coerced Labor, Worker Resistance Through Escape and Collective Action, The Use of Vice To Pacify and Retain Labor. Intoxicants, Gambling and Prostitution Are Endemic. States are weak. Both distance and rough terrain inhibit the projection of force by government. Piracy and brigandage are widespread due to state weakness. Labor is a factor of protection as well as a factor of production. Workers of necessity are also soldiers. The militarization of the labor force encourages raiding by rival capitalists. Forces that protect oneself from raids can be used to raid others. Hyper-violence is intensified by skewed sex distributions. The populations of frontiers are made up of young single men. Machismo rules. Hyper-violence leads to a racialization of frontiers. This not only includes divisions between indigenous people and settlers but includes divisions within the settler population itself. The absence of families pre-empts the more typical social formation of kinship being a basis of combat organization. Ethnicity and common geographical origin become the most relevant social unit. Conflict becomes racial conflict. Linguistic diversity increases the conflict between ethnic groups. Frontiers are veritable Towers of Babel with vast language differences within indigenous and settler groups alike. Misunderstandings are common. These principles are illustrated with materials from nineteenth-century Malaysia and Texas.

Chris Sanders, Lakehead University; Kristin Burnett, Lakehead Universtiy

Personal Identification and the Social Determinants of Health: Indigenous Peoples and Settler colonialism in Canada's Rural North

The role played by the Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) in making possible the social, economic, and political conditions that assist people and communities with achieving health and well-being is well established. Unfortunately, access to many SDoH are strictly controlled by forms of state-issue personal identification such as birth certificates, without which individuals cannot access government supports and benefits, financial institutions, emergency food programs, different modes of transportation, and so on. This presentation explores ways that PID regulates the ability of people living in rural northern Ontario especially Indigenous peoples to use essential services and supports and, in turn, how that shapes the ability of people to access the SDoH. In particular, we illuminate how key life stage moments trigger the need for personal identification and how barriers created and exacerbated by settler colonialism, racism, and rural geography complicate access to PID during these critical life moments. We argue that the barriers to personal identification take on a particularly distinct form in northern Ontario that is reflective of the region’s historical and ongoing practices of settler colonialism, resulting in Indigenous peoples being uniquely affected by barriers to obtaining and keeping PID.