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Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition

(Indigenous Americas)

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  467 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Over the past forty years, recognition has become the dominant mode of negotiation and decolonization between the nation-state and Indigenous nations in North America. The term “recognition” shapes debates over Indigenous cultural distinctiveness, Indigenous rights to land and self-government, and Indigenous peoples’ right to benefit from the development of their lands and ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 7th 2014 by Univ Of Minnesota Press (first published January 1st 2014)
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Leanne Simpson
Aug 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most important and ground-breaking books on Indigenous politics I have ever read, and it’s one of handful of books I’ll read over and over. Red Skin, White Masks interrogates the state’s continued structural commitment to Indigenous dispossession and self-determination by critiquing recognition-based approaches to reconciliation. But Coulthard doesn’t stop there. By bringing forth new interventions to the works of Marx and Fanon rooted in Indigenous understandings, Red Skin, W ...more
“For Indigenous nations to live, capitalism must die. And for capitalism to die, we must actively participate in the construction of Indigenous alternatives to it.”
Oct 02, 2020 rated it really liked it

Informative, a bit dense and not the most accessible piece. Read alongside “Paying the Land” by Sacco for my Master’s Graphic Narrative class.
Ai Miller
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really want this to be a 4.5 stars, and the reason it's not five probably has to do more with my own inability to understand Marx and Fanon than the book itself. This was a really great and oddly smooth read, especially once I got out of the introduction where Coulthard lays out the heavy theoretical work and really gets into the meat of the book. Each chapter is laid out really neatly, which I appreciate a lot as a graduate student, and though Coulthard's argument is pretty heavy in both marx ...more
Jul 15, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a very concise and clear reinterpretation of Marx+Fanon to articulate a decolonial future precipitated both on Indigenous self-making (a communal turning-inwards) and a revaluation of how to approach Indigenous-SettlerState discourse, which has not historically been carried on out on equal grounds. I like Coulthard's structuring of the book and its archive- how he reads recent events in Canada through a Marxist-Fanon lens as mentioned above. I especially liked how he seized upon Fanon's ...more
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I admit that the first chapter was a drag for me and felt quite theoretical. I feel like without some background knowledge this book could be difficult to grasp. That said it was a very interesting and smooth read after that. The author really goes into details to explain and support his views without being repetitive. What I liked the most was that it offered a "different" view and challenged the current state of affairs. I also quite enjoyed the fact that the book drew knowledge from other ind ...more
Dec 22, 2020 added it
It was a really good book.
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Residents on Turtle Island
Compelling arguments and examples to transform the reality.
“…those struggling against colonialism must ‘turn away’ from the colonial state and society and instead find in their own decolonial praxisthe source of their liberation.”
our cultural practices have much to offer regarding the establishment of relationships within and between peoples and the natural world built on principles of reciprocity and respectful coexistence…the ethic of reciprocity and sharing underlying Dene understandings of t
Jan 29, 2017 added it
Among the heavy and detestable slur of those onerous voices advocating "recognition, recognition; history is getting better" (as if Hegelian progress were a matter of the state's inevitable good graces), Coulthard's intervention is a sharp, refreshing call. What do liberal recognition and toleration mean if not accompanied by redistribution? Why make recourse to the increasingly-expert indigenous legislative appeal when, historically, they make little material difference?

Spurred on by the Idle
Brianna Herndon-Sotelo
Good message. Giving three stars because I really don’t think it’s accessible to the lay public and if we want to begin movements for rupturing the colonial system, this kind of message needs to be heard outside the walls of the academy.
Justin Podur
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I thought that this book was so insightful that I had to seek the author out, take a class by him, and host a podcast interviewing him. The book is a very careful reading of Fanon, Marx, and a few other revolutionary thinkers in the context of Canada's colonialism against indigenous people. On the latter, the author is incredibly well-informed. The result is a very deep, concisely argued, and brilliant book. There are several extremely important indigenous intellectuals coming up, more all the t ...more
Janine Gertz
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Read this book if you want a contemporary application of Marxist and Fanonian theories within an Indigenous-State, Settler-Colonial context. It will give you a powerful critique of 'the politics of recognition' and a very relevant theoretical framework for any works that are decolonising in its efforts. ...more
Oct 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Coulthard offers a unique and compelling argument that Indigenous people in Canada should shift their focus from gaining "recognition" from the settler colonial government to focus instead on self-determination and self-recognition outside the terms set by the Canadian government. Looking over the history of negotiations between the Canadian government and First Nations groups since the 1960s, Coulthard shows that in virtually every instance, the Canadian government has set the terms under which ...more
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am very glad to have found this book it provides such clarity to the flaws surrounding the (at least perceived) dominant discourse of Aboriginal politics/activism. Coulthard lays out his thesis that the politics of recognition will always fail to break away from the subjugation of the settler state as the terms of recognition will be at the behest of that state. They will always have diametrically opposed interests - the state beholden to the needs of the capitalist mode of production, and the ...more
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Though I'm of course familiar with the work by Fanon which Coulthard got his title from, I felt I would have benefitted from reading Hegel's Phenemonology of Spirit and Taylor's Recognition and Oppression, which is referenced heavily in the first section. And later on, works by Sartre.

A particularly interesting point is made regarding the application of Marxist analysis to Indigenous frameworks, which Coulthard argues is a matter of emphasizing place rather than time. The oppression of the worki
Oct 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: decolonisation
Coulthard successfully challenges a (mostly liberal) focus on recognition and reconciliation as means of addressing settler colonialism, first by acknowledging that settler colonialism is not past and history but a present condition of existence for indigenous people; second, by illustrating the many ways that policies of recognition have supported, rather than transformed, the settler colonial structure, through continuous dispossession toward capitalist advancement. Coulthard illustrates the w ...more
Tarun Yadav
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Coulthard’s critique of contemporary indigenous political rhetoric, traces the shift, over the generations, from its focus on ownership, land and the conceptualisation of Indigenous life to one more in line with state recognition and accommodation. In doing so, he touches several domains of the current state of recognition politics juxtaposed with permutations of covert settler-colonialism which are universally tactile. His intervention derives its vigour from not merely an analytic critique of ...more
Justine Wild
To be transparent, I had to read this for a Political Science class in school, not sure I would have picked this up so soon on my own. But I am glad I read it! I feel like I read very comfortable books by Indigenous authors and other authors of colour and this book made me uncomfortable in a great way. It’s hard to explain but it really did make me examine privilege in a new way and provided a more in-depth look at resistance and protest. Coulthard also is great at introducing some other great a ...more
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another book read with the English Department Theory Group. Not a hard book to get a handle on. I appreciate the defense of a very (small c) conservative worldview that flies in the face of capitalism and progress at all costs.

Coulthard's central argument that recognition and reconciliation are just more colonialism dressed up in a slightly more palatable package gave me lots to think about, but I find myself unconvinced that a return to a static, traditional culture is the solution (leaving asi
Bruce Mackenzie
This was a long read for me. Apart from the number of sidetrips it sent me on, the small type combined with my own failing eyesight left me unable to get through more than a few pages at a time. I still find it difficult to accept a framework for indigenous decolonization based so heavily on the economic and political theories of a white, upper middle-class European male, but it does work after a fashion. Frankly, the most enjoyable part of this book for me was the final chapter, when Karl Marx ...more
Jul 26, 2020 added it
Great book that tackles some really important issues in contemporary Indigenous politics quite rigorously. I don't agree with every single point argued, but all are at least well thought-out and defended. My one other problem is that so many more important events regarding Canadian Indigenous politics have taken place in the relatively short time since this was published and I just wish it could have come out this year instead so we could read Coulthard's takes on those (though I think I can ext ...more
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-reads
This is a ridiculously rich (and theoretically dense) book and I struggled through it for the past month in anticipation of reading group. For me, the discussion of resentment v ressentiment was so helpful and I look forward to breaking the text down into smaller pieces and reading them slowly again over the next few months.
Hailie Tattrie
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: indigeneity
An incredible read- I am a huge Fanon fan so this text was perfect for me as Coulthard draws from Fanon. I learned a lot, & it helped to inform my own writing style. This book is unique as it was an academic read for me, but was also enjoyable- something I would read again.
Violet Laflamme
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019
Uncomfortable in a good way. Definitely worth reading for anyone seeking to understand how settler-indigenous relations are to move forward in Canada, how 'reconciliation' fits in, if at all, and what the alternative is. ...more
Roger Green
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Through a recovered analysis of Marx's Primitive Accumulation and Frantz Fanon, Coulthard argues against the liberal framing that continues to rhetorically colonize First Nations in Canada. ...more
Audrey Saltarelli
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book does a good job of advancing the conversation from the standpoint of Indigenous philosophy.
Janice Feng
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
Not good political theory at all.
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone interested in Indigenous rights and Decolonisation
Hanna W.
Nov 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Only read a few chapters of this for class. Really well-written book.
Reginald Simms
Dec 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
The author applied the rejection of the politics of recognition to the indigenous struggle providing three examples of the very tricky and liberal way the colonial state re affirms its authority over indigenous authority and rights. The author makes a point by taking a case study of indigenous struggle and explaining why it and specifically the agreement to land settlement reaffirmed the settler states hegemony. The author analyzes the potential of resentment. Resentment has the potential to sta ...more
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Glen Coulthard (PhD – University of Victoria) is a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and an associate professor in the First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program and the Department of Political Science. Glen has written and published numerous articles and chapters in the areas of Indigenous thought and politics, contemporary political theory, and radical social and political thought. ...more

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“However, even though I find much of this anti-essentialist-inspired analysis compelling, I nonetheless hope to illuminate two problems that arise when this form of criticism is uncritically wielded in the context of Indigenous peoples’ struggles for recognition and self-determination. First, using recent feminist and deliberative democratic critiques of Indigenous recognition politics as a backdrop, I demonstrate how normative appropriations of social constructivism can undercut the liberatory aspirations of anti-essentialist criticism by failing to adequately address the complexity of interlocking social relations that serve to exasperate the types of exclusionary cultural practices that critics of essentialism find so disconcerting. Second, and perhaps more problematically, I show that when constructivist views of culture are posited as a universal feature of social life and then used as a means to evaluate the legitimacy of Indigenous claims for cultural recognition against the uncontested authority of the colonial state, it can serve to sanction the very forms of domination and inequality that anti-essentialist criticism ought to mitigate.” 0 likes
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