Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Criminal Justice as a Colonial Project in Contemporary Settler Colonialism

Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Criminal Justice as a Colonial Project in Contemporary Settler Colonialism

Article excerpt


The challenge of 'being Indigenous', in a psychic and cultural sense, forms the crucial question facing Indigenous peoples today in the era of contemporary colonialism - a form of post-modern imperialism in which domination is still the Settler imperative but where colonizers have designed and practiced more subtle means (in contrast to the earlier forms of missionary and militaristic colonial enterprises) of accomplishing their objectives (Alfred & Corntassel, 2005: 297-289).

The quote from Alfred and Corntassel that starts this paper marks out the problem-field in which the notes assembled in the following pages are to be inserted. What follows are 'notes' inasmuch as they represent the tentative explorations of a working paper on a criminological question that has only recently been explored seriously by 'western' criminology: what role, if any, does criminal justice play in the Settler Colonial states subjugation of Indigenous peoples (for recent, Indigenous examples see Agozino, 2003; Tauri, 2012)?

This paper offers an Indigenous-centred, critical perspective on the Colonial Projects (Thomas, 1994) employed in settler-colonial contexts to negate, or at the very least thinking saw science and education displace religion as key colonial projects in the colonising endeavour (Lynch, 2000). Through these projects the ideological and practical focus of settler colonial strategy changed from saving our souls, toward policies and interventions that facilitated our removal from our lands, and preparing us to participate in the emerging capitalist economy. Underpinning these policies was the development of social Darwinian-inspired ideological rationales that presented Indigenes as inherently inferior - biologically, genetically and intellectually - to Europeans. Malik (1996) and Wolfe (2010) refer to this change in ideological construction of Aboriginality as the racialization of colonialism.

A key colonial project that arose from the racialization of colonial ideology was the establishment of identity categories (Maddison, 2013). These included the introduction of measurements of indigeneity based on blood quantum (for example 'full', '3/4', 'half-Maori' and so forth: see Meredith, 2006). Relatedly, a raftof projects arose aimed specifically at 'breeding out' the Indigenous, exemplified in a range of eugenics programmes, such as forced sterilisation, that were deployed across Canada, Australia and the U.S in the latter half of the 19th, and early part of the 20th centuries (Grekul et al, 2004; Lawrence, 2000). These eugenics programmes were in turn supported by a range of projects focused on eradicating Indigenous peoples ability to practice their culture, most notably in the form of child removal programmes and residential/native schools, especially in the Canadian, U.S and Australian contexts (see Bartrop, 2001; Trocme, Knoke & Blackstock, 2004; Woolford, 2013). The eradication of Indigenous culture through education policy was supported by the introduction of legislation in all settler colonial jurisdictions aimed specifically at banning or criminalising the practice of Indigenous ritual and culture. Notable examples include legislation banning the potlatch ceremony in Canada (Jonaitis, 1991), the Sun Dance in the U.S (Jorgensen, 1972), and Maori religious practice in New Zealand (Stephens, 2001). And lastly, there are the colonial projects that can be collectivized under the heading of 'structural violence', exemplified by direct military action, forced removal of children, and the policies and actions emanating from the developing criminal justice system, much of which was imported intact from the jurisdictions of the European colonisers (Merry, 2000; see discussion below on structural violence).

The numerous colonial projects that littered the settler colonial landscape formed a complex 'web' of subjugating strategies across a range of social and economic policy platforms. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.