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Professor Kirsten Anker
McGill University Faculty of Law

The reverse side of the story of colonisation as the dispossession of Indigenous peoples is that of deracinated settlers attempting to appropriate for themselves a land in which they had no historical roots, and no deep ecological knowledge. That appropriation was, and still is, effected by violence. But rather than decry this violence and the colonial tropes that support it as simply self-serving instruments of power and material advantage (though they are), this paper will approach them as a pathology. The multiple dissonances involved in colonial property speak to the delusional thinking of fantasy or psychosis, the violence an acting out of a repressed trauma. Beyond the repression of the precariousness of settlement, oranxiety about colonial belonging, I suspect, is an older trauma of loss of connection to place, or disenchantment, in European societies. This paper finishes by tracking the possibility for the newcomers in settler colonies to re-root themselves through Indigenous law and treaty without living out new kinds of appropriation and fantasy.

Kirsten Anker works on the intersections between settler colonial and Indigenous forms of law in Australia and Canada and has teaching and research interests in property, legal theory, Aboriginal law, evidence, dispute resolution, resource management, and legal education. Her book, Declarations of Interdependence: A Legal Pluralist Approach to Indigenous Rights (2014) develops a critical discursive legal pluralism to explore the challenges to orthodox understandings of law and sovereignty posed by the recognition of Indigenous title. She brings a wide interdisciplinary lens to current projects on the inclusion of Indigenous legal traditions in formal legal education, non-static digital mapping in land claims, the privatization of Indigenous consultation, and ecological jurisprudence.

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