The Discourse of Aboriginality (Pt II): Imperialism and Edward Said’s “Orientalism”

In outlining Michel Foucault’s account of power, the previous chapter spoke of the role juridical theory played in fixing the legitimacy of the King’s rule in Medieval Europe. Foucault claims that jurists effectively masked the dominating effects of royal power by locating the central focus of their discourse on power in the sole personage of the King. In this sense, the theory of sovereignty appears to be a reflection not so much on power as of power. Thus, power’s greatest advantage over its opponents is its privileged ability to ‘tell its own story’ as it were and, in turn, have that story stand as the authoritative version of events.

In the first part of this chapter, the reader will be introduced to the methodology and insights of Edward Said’s Orientalism. Said applies the Foucaultian notion of discourse to the intellectual and imaginary posture of the West towards its one-time Oriental colonies. As a former colony of the West, the Orient was and in many ways remains a region profoundly affected by the ideas and behaviours imposed upon it by European imperialism. Said reveals how, here too, imperial power gets to tell its own ‘self’-centered (hi)story as Europe gains and consolidates its foothold in the Orient:

Taking the eighteenth century as a very roughly defined starting point Orientalism can be discussed and analyzed as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient—dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring and having authority over the Orient.

Enabling these authoritative dealings with the Orient, of course, is the historical fact of Europe’s physical and political domination of that region. Indeed, as Said makes explicit in Orientalism, any attempt to seriously understand how certain ideas, cultures, and histories come to predominate over all others must first grasp their relation to power:

To believe that the Orient was created—or, as I call it, “Orientalized”—and to believe that such things happen simply as a necessity of the imagination, is to be disingenuous… The Orient was Orientalized not only because it was discovered to be “Oriental” in all those ways considered commonplace by an average nineteenth-century European, but also because it could be—that is, submitted to being—made Oriental.

In this regard, Said’s analysis immediately presents itself as a suggestive model for the purposes of this paper. For in both the colonial Orient and the area that has now become Canada, indigenous peoples were initially dominated by the imperial forces of Europe; in the case of the latter colony, however, that imperial presence remains. In both cases, moreover, the principal imperial actors were the countries of Britain and France, with the former eventually coming to supersede the latter as the dominant player in both regions. Given this similarity in their respective circumstances, it would be useful to consider within the context of the burgeoning Canadian nation-state Said’s analysis concerning the Orient.

Again, the main contention of this paper is that the active campaign by the dominant society to explain away through its discourse the violent and persistent efforts of the Canadian nation-state to forcibly remove Aboriginal peoples from their lands must be seen as complicit in those efforts. These efforts must be identified as the genocidal and ethnocidal practices they in effect are in their continued assault upon Native peoples and their unique ways of life. In that respect, Said’s analysis bears a great deal of relevance to what is a fundamentally similar set of historical circumstances—European imperialism and colonization.

As Orientalism employs many of the same analytical tools as Foucault, the instructiveness of its approach for this paper stems not so much from its theoretical component as the method of its application to the material aspects of discourse, namely, texts of a literary and scholarly nature. According to Said, power displays itself within the form of its discursive elements; that is, that despite power’s best (or worst, depending on one’s perspective) intentions, one is able to discern a high degree of consistency in the operations of a given discourse that gives the presence of power away. In short, discourse is not only an instrument of power but a sign of its effects as well. What this paper draws from the analysis of Said in particular are a number of broad themes that serve to characterise the manner by which Orientalism operates. These themes include Orientalism’s intrinsic Eurocentrism, its problematising nature and the ultimately de-humanising effects of its schematic and cosmic vision of the Orient. Undergirding all of these themes is the fundamental ontological and epistemological division between the Orient and the Occident.

In exploring these Orientalist themes, this chapter will identify and describe the kinds of discursive claims to which the West has found it necessary to appeal in order to warrant its occupation of the Orient. Taken as a whole, these themes can be seen to constitute a broad model of analysis that, once established, will permit this paper to interrogate the discourse surrounding Native peoples in Canada. Forming the background concerns of this chapter are the following questions: first, by what process of exposition can we claim that an operational link between power and knowledge is present? Secondly, what kind of evidence can we marshall to support this line of argument? Obviously, what is at stake in the posing of these questions is both theoretical and political in nature: in the first case, the utility of the ideas of Foucault and Said to establishing this paper’s thesis, namely, the existence of a systematic and recognizable discourse on Native peoples in Canada; in the second case, the relevance of that discourse to the form and operation of Native/non-Native relations in Canada.


While it may appear largely self-explanatory to discuss the notion of Eurocentrism, what it refers to is by no means self-evident. At base, a Eurocentric perspective is an intellectual and creative attitude toward the world that is almost entirely centered on the ideas, concepts and theories of the West. Yet, the significance of this perspective for the depiction and representation of the East cannot be determined by restricting one’s analysis to a search for a

correspondence between the language used to depict the Orient and the Orient itself, not so much because the language is inaccurate but because it is not even trying to be accurate. What it is trying to do… is at one and the same time to characterize the Orient as alien and to incorporate it schematically on a theatrical stage whose audience, manager, and actors are for Europe, and only for Europe.

This narrow point of view, which in fact may be as easily held by non-Europeans as by Europeans, does not present itself as the partial and biased view that it actually is. Instead, it has come to lay a virtually culture-wide claim to objectivity, the implication being that views of a non-Western origin are thus subjective and biased, if not superstitious. This partiality of the East thus established, it is only fitting to the West that it assume the burden of apprehending and comprehending the world. Naturally, this sovereign viewpoint of the West extends to the East, a move facilitated by its physical presence in that region:

[T]he imaginative examination of things Oriental was based more or less exclusively upon a sovereign Western consciousness out of whose unchallenged centrality an Oriental world emerged, first according to general ideas about who or what was an Oriental, then according to a detailed logic governed not simply by empirical reality but by a battery of desires, repressions, investments, and projections.

What makes Eurocentrism as an assumed mode of understanding so difficult to recognise is the subtle and gradual manner, by which it has come to be insinuated within everyday Western life, often under the guise of ‘modernity.’ The Eurocentric perspective is in a sense, so pervasive, so entrenched, so ubiquitous within the very fabric of the various institutions and traditions of Western society that it is about as noticeable and conscious an act as breathing. In other words, Eurocentrism is what this society takes for granted in its large or small interactions with the rest of the world: European superiority. Again, paving the way for the predominance of European intellectual and imaginary paradigms in the Orient is the overwhelming physical presence of European forces entrenched there. Such presence took many forms, including the institutions of colonial governments, consular corps, and commercial establishments, not to mention the missions and, most certainly, military outposts.

The chief way in which Eurocentrism manifests itself within the Orientalist discourse is in a constant, if implicit, self-reflexiveness on the part of Western subjects vis-à-vis their putative colonial object in the Orient. Where the ostensible focus of European literature or scholarship is on the customs or people of the Orient, one recognises an ultimate concern with the needs and motivations of the West. For example, the French authors Nerval and Flaubert brought with them to the Orient a long cultivated taste for the ‘exotic,’ particularly in the area of sexuality; their dogged pursuit of such ‘fare’ only served to confirm their pre-conceived impressions and expectations of the region and its peoples. Underlying and emboldening this self-concern is an awareness that, as a Westerner, one is a member of an empire which has asserted itself into a position of dominance within the geography and affairs of another part of the world. By identifying with this position of dominance, one is able to put forth with supreme confidence a view of the Orient that requires little if any empirical substantiation, including from the Orient itself. Said notes how Flaubert’s highly sexualized image of the quintessential Oriental woman, based on a single encounter with a Egyptian courtesan, came to be widely circulated throughout Europe: her consent, of course, was a non-issue. Similarly, the British author, Alexander William Kinglake, could boldly assert in 1844 that the Arabian Knights is too lively and inventive a work to have been created by a “mere Oriental, who for creative purposes, is a thing dead and dry—a mental mummy.” Such sweeping generalizations can be made by the Orientalist even though, in the case of Kinglake, he has no working knowledge of any Oriental languages.

Present throughout the Eurocentric viewpoint is the assumption of a high degree of authority over surrounding events and phenomena. This authoritative position confers upon one the ability to ‘uncover’ the perceived ‘mysteries’ of the Orient and Oriental life as if they were mere codes to be cracked or puzzles to be solved. Said characterizes this drive to discover as an essential belief in one’s ability to ‘exteriorize’ the Orient, to make the Orient plain for ‘all’ to see, an attitude typified by the noted Orientalist, Silvestre de Sacy:

In Sacy’s pages on Orientalism—as elsewhere in his writing—he speaks of his own work as having uncovered, brought to light, rescued a vast amount of obscure matter. Why? In order to place it before the student. For like all his learned contemporaries Sacy considered a learned work a positive addition to an edifice that all scholars erected together. Knowledge was essentially the making visible of material… The result was the production of material about the Orient, methods for studying it, and exempla that even Orientals did not have.

This passage also serves to illustrate the inherent self-reflexivity of the Eurocentric perspective. Implicit in such an attitude is the assumption that once people’s behaviour can be made known, it can be predicted; and what can be predicted, can be controlled. Such knowledge is nothing if not practical, for it implicitly prescribes the adoption of certain technical solutions that, ultimately, will come to act upon human beings.

The authority of the Orientalist effectively allows him or her to interpret virtually any act on the part of the non-Western world as merely responding to what are seen as the originating and active energies of the West. According to some Orientalists, for example, in the case of Mohammed (the European version of his name), the Islamic prophet is nothing more than a pale imitation of the European Christ figure. Gradually, Western authors and artists come to regard this ability to interpret the rest of the world, for it obviously cannot do so itself, as a kind of birthright. This includes not only the right to depict whatever an artist or writer may come across, but the right to know everything and anything as well. In fact, artistic licence is often regarded as a kind of sacred trust in the West, an obligation to express ‘the truth’ for ‘all mankind’ at any cost. To suggest that this scholarly and artistic prerogative is based on the physical domination of the target/object of that interpretive gaze is to risk accusations of censorship or “political correctness.” Ultimately, what the Eurocentric tendencies of Orientalist discourse create is a situation whereby the West (and thus the Orient) forms the beginning and end point of its analysis, observation and understanding. What is relevant to the European gaze is only what the Orient means in terms of the needs of the West; in other words, in and of itself, the Orient is not worth much to the Orientalist, except as the first cause of what he or she says. Whether such a self-directed vision of the East by the West is especially reflective of the reality of the dominated Orient appears to matter little to the West when it aids and abets the ends of colonization so well.

The Problematic Orient

A second major theme of Orientalist discourse is the positioning of the Orient and the Oriental as a problem:

so far as the West was concerned during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, an assumption had been made that the Orient and everything in it was, if not patently inferior to, then in need of corrective study by the West. The Orient was viewed as if framed by the classroom, the criminal court, the prison, the illustrated manual. Orientalism, then, is knowledge of the Orient that places things Oriental in class, court, prison, or manual for scrutiny, study, judgement, discipline, or governing.

Whenever a problem arises, it is not too long after that a solution appears seeking to take care of it. In being designated as a problem, either indirectly as a result of one’s behaviour or directly because of who one is, one immediately becomes vulnerable to any and all forms of manipulation and coercion deemed necessary to ‘correct’ the problem.

Lost or overlooked in the problem-solution debate is the source of the diagnoses and treatment of what allegedly ails the Orient. Drawing upon what it regards as impartial and unbiased criteria, the Imperialist countries justify and support their presence in the East by establishing the existence of a certain ‘lack’ in the Orient, which becomes part of the Orientalist discourse. This discourse frames the situation of the East in terms of a ‘crisis’ of endemic proportions, a situation in desperate need of the kind of attention that the West uniquely offers. The perceived ‘lack’ in the Orient is interpreted as inviting the kind of rehabiliative practices and methods of the West, of which it has a fortuitous abundance of expertise. And accordingly, the West must of necessity be directly involved for these recommendations to be established and implemented in a satisfactory and appropriate manner. Hence its physical presence in the Orient. Of course, here again, what is to be seen as a ‘satisfactory’ and ‘appropriate’ result is, in the last instance, for the West to decide, not Orientals themselves.

It is useful here to consider the 1910 comments of Arthur James Balfour, who lectured the British House of Commons on the “problems with which we have to deal in Egypt.” According to Balfour, those members questioning the validity of England’s presence in that country must

look in the face the facts with which a British statesman has to deal when he is put into a position of supremacy over great races like the inhabitants of Egypt and countries in the East… Is it a good thing for these great nations—I admit their greatness—that this absolute government should be exercised by us? I think it is a good thing. I think that experience shows that they have got under it far better government than in the whole history of the world they ever had before, and which not only is a benefit to them, but is undoubtedly a benefit to the whole of the civilised West… We are in Egypt not merely for the sake of the Egyptians, though we are there for their sake; we are there also for the sake of Europe at large.

Thus the West comes to establish the legitimacy of its colonial presence in the Orient. As for the Egyptian who resists this imposed authority, he is more likely to be “the agitator [who] wishes to raise difficulties.”

The West’s concern for the Orient thus reveals itself as concealing other, less altruistic motives for physically implicating itself in Oriental affairs. According to Said, what has in fact motivated such Western ‘concern’ for the area has been simply either the recognition of potential economic or political interests or the perception of a threat to such interests already established. In other words, as comforting as the thought of Western goodwill toward the Orient might be, it has never been a major reason for the West’s being there. And as Said notes,

consistently facilitating that imperial presence was a constantly refined knowledge of the Orient, so that as traditional societies hastened forward and became modern commercial societies, there would be no loss of paternal British control, and no loss of revenue either. However, when [senior colonial administrator] Curzon referred somewhat inelegantly to Oriental studies as the ‘necessary furniture of empire,’ he was putting into a static image the transactions by which Englishmen and natives conducted their business and kept their places. From the day of Sir William Jones the Orient had been both what Britain ruled and what Britain knew about it: the coincidence between geography, knowledge and power, with Britain always in the master’s place, was complete.

One rationale for the West’s imperial solution to ‘The Oriental problem’ was provided by what Said refers to as the Romantic Orientalist project. This project emerged out of a 18th century desire in the West to restore to a largely secularized Europe a sense of its lost holy mission. Regarded as a particularly useful means to that imaginary end was the discursive positioning of the Orient as an ancient and exotic land, fertile ground suitable for the cultural regeneration of Europe. Unearthing the Orient’s obscure and hidden core of riches would be the Orientalist, whose reconstructive activities in the areas of language and mores, even mentalities, now become front and center in the imperial plan.

Prominently featured within this Romantic Orientalist project is a notion stemming from the West’s self-perception as a champion of the ideals and principles of freedom and democracy, an idea

that will acquire an almost unbearable, next to mindless authority in European writing: the theme of Europe teaching the Orient the meaning of liberty, which is an idea that Chateaubriand and everyone after him believed that Orientals, and especially Muslims, knew nothing about… [A]rguing that Orientals require conquest, and finding it no paradox that a Western conquest of the Orient was not conquest after all, but liberty.

One gets the distinct impression that, in its own mind at least, the West feels it is actually doing a service to the Orient by carrying out a project ostensibly designed to restore the region to its once “glorious past.” Ignored entirely by such sentiments is the fact that such recognition comes from the perspective of Europeans and not Orientals. An excellent example of how the Romantic restorative project is realised in practice is the construction of the Suez Canal. A huge and enormously expensive undertaking, the completion of the Canal finally overcame the great physical distance physically separating the Orient from the Occident. Thomas Cook, anticipating its opening, ennobles and romanticizes this vast and physically destructive project, relying, in the process, on a series of Orientalist values attached to a distant European past:

Truly the occasion will be an exceptional one. The formation of a line of water communication between Europe and the East, has been the thought of centuries, occupying in turn the minds of Greeks, Roman, Saxon and Gaul, but it was not until within the last few years that modern civilization began seriously to set about emulating the labours of the ancient pharaohs, who, many centuries since, constructed a canal between the two seas, traces of which remain today.

This heralding of a classical Oriental past is a particularly useful discursive notion for the colonial powers. For it both chastises and historicizes the Orient. It is chastised because it has fallen so far from its original glorious state, and it is historicized because it can never hope to live up to that fixed classical view of Oriental culture. Thus, what little worth the Orient does have, according to the West, is to be found in its past; a past which in its glory deprives the Orient of its agency in the present. The Orient, by constantly failing to live up to the European-imposed standards of the Eastern Golden Age, is thus deemed open to improvement by the West.

In seeking to act upon the problem presented by the Orient—”its sensuality, its tendency to despotism, its aberrant mentality, its habits of inaccuracy, its backwardness”—one Orientalists have so expertly discovered and identified, the imperialist powers implement a wide array of bureaucratic and administrative techniques and procedures. Of all the various aspects of Orientalist discourse this area is perhaps the easiest to recognise. Recommendation of the above measures are often articulated in the form of direct or indirect questions which serve to establish both the existence of a problem and the implicit mandate to propose solutions. Typical examples of such queries include, “How are we to address the Oriental problem?”, or, “How do we help the Orient to help itself?” Given that with the posing of every problem there comes the suggestion of an implicit solution, the discourse can therefore be better seen as not merely descriptive but prescriptive as well. Once again, at no point in this scenario does it seem relevant for the West to wonder whether the Orient is actually desirous for any of these decisions made on its behalf.

Finally, at some point in the discourse, one eventually finds numerous exclamations on the part of sincerely frustrated individual Westerners—”who only want to do what’s right for these people”—ruing the uncooperative attitude among Orientals. This frustration may seem odd, given the fact that if a real ‘solution’ was to be found, the ‘problem’ and thus the rationale for the West’s presence in the Orient would disappear. Rather than constituting any kind of contradiction, however, the fact of such genuine passion being directed at ‘helping’ the Oriental only serves to reinforce the fact that good intentions and the effects of colonial discourse by no means correspond. Indeed, in the eyes of Orientalists, imperialism is not a unilateral act of foreign invasion but one invited by what is perceived to be the deteriorating condition of the Orient. After all, so the logic goes, would the countries of the West go out all that way and remain there if the situation did not cry out in some way for their special brand of assistance? One can see how the act of imperialism itself provides its own theoretical justification.

The Scheme of Things Oriental

The last major theme of Orientalist discourse to be drawn upon here is its schematic and cosmic vision of the Orient. Such a view adopts a kind of universal perspective on the Orient, assigning to everyone perceived to fall within its purview a specific set of functions to fulfil as part of their specifically prescribed roles. In describing the implications of such a ‘visionary cosmology’ for an understanding of the Orient, Said cites Isaiah Berlin, who asserts that to

know the ‘cosmic’ place of a thing or a person is to say what it is and what it does, and at the same time why it should be and do as it is and does. Hence to be and to have value, to exist and to have a function (and to fulfil it more or less successfully) are one and the same. The pattern, and it alone, brings into being and causes to pass away and confers purpose, that is to say, value and meaning, on all there is. To understand is to perceive patterns… The more inevitable an event or action or a character can be exhibited as being, the better it can be understood, the profounder the researcher’s insight, the nearer we are to the one ultimate truth.

Again, the underlying domination permitting the doling out of such assignments by Westerners is neither recognised nor consciously acknowledged as being in any way responsible for the privileged position they occupy. Instead, this prerogative of interpretation is seen to be the result of a unique vision, considered at once grand and universal in its scope and intent.

For Said, the ‘visionary’ aspect of the Orientalist discourse is central to appreciating the utterly dehumanizing effects of its practice. By taking a unitary view of the Orient and the millions of people who dwell within it, Orientalism eliminates all traces of human diversity and individuality, collapsing the behaviours and thoughts of millions of people into an immutable whole. If one fails to live up to the roles expected of him or her as an Oriental, one is immediately accused of undermining social stability, and dealt with accordingly. According to Said, Lord Cromer, England’s representative in Egypt, understood this hierarchy well:

There are Westerners, and there are Orientals. The former dominate; the latter must be dominated, which usually means having their land occupied, their internal affairs rigidly controlled, their blood and treasure put at the disposal of one or another Western power… For, if according to Cromer, logic is something ‘the existence of which the Oriental is disposed altogether to ignore,’ the proper method of ruling is not to impose ultrascientific measures upon him or to force him bodily to accept logic. It is rather to understand his limitations and ‘endeavour to find, in the contentment of the subject race, a more worthy, and it may be hoped, a stronger bond of union between the rulers and the ruled.’

Yet roles do not exist only for those who fall within the category of ‘normal’ Oriental practice. Indeed, there exists a kind of standardized view of deviance as well within Orientalist discourse. If, for example, an Oriental rejects Western mores and institutions, it is not understood to be for reasons having anything to do with a rejection of Western imperialism. Rather, the correct, Orientalist interpretation would perceive such rejection as a mere attempt, and a quite poor one at that, to replicate the nationalist ideals and behaviours of the West. The alternatives as presented by the West are clear: either submit to the ‘harmony’ and ‘civility’ promised by the institution of a Western idealized social hierarchy, or, lapse once more into sheer, chaotic, irrational ‘anarchy.’ As if to ensure that ‘anarchy’ is indeed what such independent action on the part of Orientals would bring, the West forcibly intervenes and severely punishes those responsible for such actions. Nevertheless, irrespective of how Orientals may react to the selflessness and good graces of the West in its effort to redeem the Orient, the nations of Europe were determined to bear the heavy moral burden of saving the Orient from itself.

The assumption of an Orientalist vantage point is perhaps best understood as an attitude overwhelmingly grounded in texts, as a sufficient means by which to come to understand and know the Orient. Thus, a textual attitude is one which holds to the notion that a first-order reality like the Orient can be largely and sufficiently understood, comprehended and ultimately addressed on the basis of an inherently second-order knowledge of that reality. Encouraging and underlining that textual attitude is imperial power, with Orientalist discourse a major and necessary means of its exercise. By remaining chiefly at the level of texts, Orientalism thus limits the actual degree of human engagement by its practitioners, preferring instead the coherent and internally consistent world-view encouraged by texts. Said describes this predominance of texts over reality as “the defeat of narrative by vision.” By narrative, Said is essentially referring to the complex and multifaceted ways by which a given group of people change over time as the result of a number of inter-connecting and overlapping historical, political, economic and socio-cultural forces. The Orientalist ‘vision,’ by contrast, essentialises such change, attributing the uneven events of history to what it regards as the immutable, generic, even genetic, traits of the original Oriental character. However, this holistic triumph of vision is a conditional one and is under constant pressure from

narrative, in that if any Oriental detail can be shown to move, or develop, diachrony is introduced into the system. What seemed stable—and the Orient is synonymous with stability and unchanging eternality—now appears unstable. Instability suggests that history, with its disruptive detail, its currents of change, its tendency towards growth, decline, or dramatic movement, is possible in the Orient and for the Orient. History and the narrative by which history is represented argue that vision is insufficient, that ‘the Orient’ as an unconditional ontological category does an injustice to the potential of reality for change.

Above all, what the dominant imperial representation of Oriental life as unchanging, dependent, and utterly ineffective reveals itself to be according to Said is nothing more than “a will to power, a will to truth and interpretation, and not an objective condition of history.”

Perhaps more than any other aspect of Orientalism, it is the unitary vision of the Orientalist which belies the presence and functioning of imperial power within the Orientalist discourse. As mentioned earlier, the ultimate achievement for the Orientalist, as the professed expert on the East for the West, is to render the Orient plain for all to see through the accumulation of knowledge on and about the region and its people. Thus, the Orientalist, by displaying his or her knowledge of the Orient and Orientals made them available, and thus amenable and open to, certain administrative and bureaucratic practices of the West. In this way, knowledge of the Orient informs and thus facilitates imperialist practice. Over time, this ‘Oriental’ knowledge develops a kind of institutional and material presence, lending officiality and permanence to the conclusions and tenets of its discourse. Thus, any text emerging out of and relying upon this official infrastructure is

not easily dismissed. Expertise is attributed to it. The authority of academics, institutions, and governments can accrue to it, surrounding it with still greater prestige than its practical successes warrant. Most important, such texts can create not only knowledge but also the very reality they appear to describe. In time such knowledge and reality produce a tradition, or what Michel Foucault calls a discourse, whose material presence or weight, not the originality of a given author, is really responsible for the texts produced out of it.

According to Said, the main impetus underlying Orientalist scholarship has always been a quest for power and land. As the hinge on which Orientalism depends, the individual Orientalist has produced theories about the Orient, and the Oriental, which have, inter alia, served to elevate his specific role in the imperial equation. The net effect has been the identification of the Orient with individual European (and thus Eurocentric) perspectives, a factor which goes some way toward explaining the coherent nature of such views of the Orient. It is their struggles to contain the Orient, to get a handle on it, to make it manageable, that have led some, including Hannah Arendt, to conclude that “the counterpart of bureaucracy is the imperial agent.”

. . . . . . .

In the first chapter, I began to advance the link between knowledge and power above and beyond the mere juxtaposition of image and effect, to the point where one can see the outlines of a unitary, systematic functionalist vision at work as an active, permissive, prescriptive and productive force. This vision does not nullify so much as sanctify the de-humanization of Indigenous peoples through knowledge practices. Moreover, an inhuman conceptual framework only serves to institute and maintain inhumane political practices. In the next chapter, I will advance two of the historical themes by which Aboriginal peoples in Canada have been positioned as objects of knowledge within similarly dehumanizing theoretical frameworks.


PART III > The Historical Discourse of Aboriginality

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