Contemporary Political Theory

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 437–460 | Cite as

Subjects of Empire: Indigenous Peoples and the ‘Politics of Recognition’ in Canada

  • Glen S Coulthard
Feature Article: Theory and Practice


Over the last 30 years, the self-determination efforts and objectives of Indigenous peoples in Canada have increasingly been cast in the language of ‘recognition’ — recognition of cultural distinctiveness, recognition of an inherent right to self-government, recognition of state treaty obligations, and so on. In addition, the last 15 years have witnessed a proliferation of theoretical work aimed at fleshing out the ethical, legal and political significance of these types of claims. Subsequently, ‘recognition’ has now come to occupy a central place in our efforts to comprehend what is at stake in contestations over identity and difference in colonial contexts more generally. In this paper, I employ Frantz Fanon's critique of Hegel's master–slave dialectic to challenge the now hegemonic assumption that the structure of domination that frames Indigenous–state relations in Canada can be undermined via a liberal politics of recognition. Against this assumption, I argue that instead of ushering in an era of peaceful coexistence grounded on the Hegelian ideal of reciprocity, the contemporary politics of recognition promises to reproduce the very configurations of colonial power that Indigenous demands for recognition have historically sought to transcend.


Indigenous peoples recognition colonialism Frantz Fanon Charles Taylor 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Glen S Coulthard
    • 1
  1. 1.Indigenous Governance Programs, University of Victoria, Faculty of Human and Social Development, PO Box 1700 STN CSCVictoriaCanada

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