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Wesleyan University | Center for the Humanities



“So-Called Reconciliation”: Empty Signifiers and Settler Political Community

Joseph Weiss • Wesleyan University 

February 13th @ 6pm  • Daniel Family Commons

This talk explores the ways in which the settler discourse of reconciliation in Canada operates as an “empty signifier” (Laclau), that is, a term whose semiotic underdetermination plays a central role in its ability to bind together highly disparate meanings within the formation of a political community. “Reconciliation,” following this logic, does not simply bring together already established political unities, but works to constitute a new socio-political order that would include both settlers and Indigenous subjects. What happens, then, to Indigenous people (and Peoples) who do not wish to form part of this new “unity?” Does working towards reconciliation as an undefined but affectively charged “good” work to draw ever tighter the limits on what forms of Indigenous politics can be recognized by the settler state and what political actions should be cast out as the work of terrorists or enemies of the state? Is reconciliation done with Indigenous Peoples, or it is done to them?

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Center for the Humanities · 95 Pearl Street, Middletown, CT 06459

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