The infrastructures of White settler perception: A political phenomenology of colonialism, genocide, ecocide, and emergency

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Emergencies are an element of perception. Far from a private and personal affair, perception is social, structured by a process of “inculcation.” Perception has a material-political infrastructure in the sense that it is underlain by cultural and economic conditions that refract the colonial, White supremacist, and heteropatriarchal inscriptions of “dominant” society into the quotidian understanding of events, crystalizing intentional modes in subjects, bodies, and communities. These infrastructures are dynamic and multifaceted, but their alloyed effect regulates phenomena of emergency always to the advantage of the settler colonial state and capitalist interests. Infrastructures of settler perception obfuscate the ways in which Native communities experience environmental emergencies as cycles of settler colonial violence and ecocide. Emergencies such as global warming are described as “human-caused” rather than directly linked to settler colonialism, capitalism, and White supremacy. Many uncritical deployments of the term “Anthropocene” commit a similar fallacy, implicating people who have had little or nothing to do with the planetary ecological collapse. In a White logic of death, or “necropolitics,” the structures of colonialism, genocide, war, and slavery represent not the beginning of crisis, but rather the end of violence and disorder. This strategy of obfuscation is employed in a variety of contexts and seen explicitly in the context of Indian education systems that form a political project of spiritual and physical domination. In response, a politics of refusal has emerged in Native communities to form incommensurable collective experiences of emergencies, attending to the ways in which emergencies reveal the relationships between us and how these indicate differential and yet interconnected responsibilities and moral duties that implicate some of us more than others and call incommensurable communities forth to action each in their own way.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)588-604
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironment and Planning E: Nature and Space
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Decolonizing
  • emergency
  • infrastructures
  • phenomenology
  • settler colonialism


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