Philosophy Today

Volume 67, Issue 1, Winter 2023

Violent Democracies

Lisa GuentherOrcid-ID
Pages 81-98

Property, Dispossession, and State Violence
The Criminalization of Indigenous Resistance in Canada

In “Criminal Empire,” Ojibwe scholar Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark argues that the criminalization of Indigenous resistance to colonization “averts attention” from the criminality of democratic settler states, which fail or refuse to honor their own legal agreements with Indigenous peoples. This chapter reflects on the implications of Stark’s analysis for the relation between property, dispossession, and liberal democratic state violence. From this perspective, the prison appears not as a correctional institution for individual lawbreakers, but as a spatial strategy for the imposition and enforcement of a colonial legal order and a capitalist property regime. The challenge of decolonization, then, is not just to return stolen land to Indigenous peoples, but also to dismantle the structures of propertied personhood and dispossession that the settler democracy (re)produces through the prison system.