Reconciling violence: policing the politics of recognition

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Over the course of several months in 2018, more than 240 people were arrested in Burnaby, BC, Canada for disrupting the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. While those arrested shared a willingness to defy Canadian law in opposition to this pipeline development, the police applied differing degrees of force and violence while making these arrests. Informed by interviews with land defenders and engagements on the frontlines of this conflict, this paper considers what these discrepancies in police tactics teach us about logics of settler colonial law, authority, and violence. We do so by engaging in a discussion of the foundational paradox of the state – that its constitutional law is unlawfully constituted – and by presenting the politics of recognition as a strategy employed by the settler colonial state in its attempts to reconcile the contradiction between the state’s claims to legal authority and its own unlawful foundations. However, whereas recognition and reconciliation are often presented in contrast to earlier more violent eras of colonial governance, we argue that colonial recognition is a logic of state violence which determines how, and against whom, state violence is distributed. When assertions of Indigenous jurisdiction take unrecognized or deviant forms, the state ultimately resorts to violence to remove these competing claims to legal authority. Moreover, we argue that police violence against Indigenous peoples asserting “sovereignty on the ground” should not be understood as merely a matter of law enforcement – rather, this is a productive form of violence through which the legal authority of the state is actively established.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-121
Number of pages11
Early online date17 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Reconciliation
  • Law
  • Police
  • Settler colonialism
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Dispossession


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