Why Asian settler colonialism matters: a thought piece on critiques, debates, and Indigenous difference

Dean Itsuji Saranillio

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Examining multicultural forms of settler colonialism, this essay examines settler colonialism within a transnational view of global imperial politics, pulling formations of settler colonialism and imperialism together. Responding to arguments against the critique of Asian settler colonialism, this essay argues that while migration in and of itself does not equate to colonialism, migration to a settler colonial space, where Native lands and resources are under political, ecological, and spiritual contestation, means the political agency of immigrant communities can bolster a colonial system initiated by White settlers. An analysis of White supremacy is thus argued to be critical to a settler of color critique of the US Empire. White settlers in the islands managed Kanaka ‘Ōiwi and various Asian settler differences not through one binary opposition but multiple binaries. Taken together these oppositions produced a pyramidal view of the world that helped diverse non-White settlers to see their interests as aligned with the formation of a liberal settler state. This developmental discourse was and remains framed around an alterity that disqualifies Indigenous sovereignty and histories. While not uncomplicated, placing Asian American and Native histories in conversation might create the conditions of possibility where social justice-oriented Asian Americans might conceptualize liberation in ways that are accountable to Native aims for decolonization. The essay ends with a self-critique, applying these framings through personal reflections of the author's family history in Hawai'i.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)280-294
    Number of pages15
    JournalSettler Colonial Studies
    Issue number3-4
    StatePublished - Nov 1 2013

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Demography
    • Cultural Studies
    • History
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Law


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