Settler Memory and the Pitfalls and Possibilities of a Third Reconstruction

The Australian Centre thanks Ashley Anderson for the careful and considerate revision of provided captions

Webinar summary and key themes

This webinar is the seventh and final in the Australian Centre's 2022 Critical Public Conversations series:  Undoing Australia.

In this talk Professor Bruyneel will discuss the chronic displacement of Indigeneity in the politics and discourse around race in American political theory and culture, arguing that the ongoing influence of settler-colonialism has undermined efforts to understand Indigenous politics while also hindering conversation around race itself.

The talk will center on an important era and text - the late 19th Century Reconstruction Era in the United States and W.E.B. Du Bois’ canonical text Black Reconstruction in America – and in so doing discuss the role of the political memory of reconstruction in US politics today and how the work of settler memory limits the possibilities for how this memory can be mobilized. In so doing, Bruyneel speaks to the power of settler memory at work in the persistent disavowal of Indigeneity and its relationship to anti-racist and anti-capitalist critiques and effort to imagine and build a better world. In so doing, Bruyneel will discuss how Indigenous and Black intellectuals have understood ties between racism and white settler memory, even as the settler dimensions of whiteness are frequently erased in our discourse about race, whether in conflicts over Indian mascotry or the white nationalist underpinnings of Trumpism.


Kevin Bruyneel is Professor of Politics at Babson College. He is the author of Settler Memory: The Disavowal of Indigeneity and the Politics of Race in the United States, published in the Critical Indigeneities Series of the University of North Carolina Press in 2021. He presently writes on the relationship between race, colonialism, collective memory, and racial capitalism. He has published articles in History & Memory, Settler Colonial Studies, Native American and Indigenous Studies Journal, and The Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy. His first book was The Third Space of Sovereignty: The Postcolonial Politics of U.S.-Indigenous Relations. He is of settler ancestry, born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. Bruyneel completed his B.A. at Simon Fraser University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. at the New School for Social Research in New York City. At Babson College, Bruyneel teaching courses in Political Theory, American Politics, Critical Race Studies, Indigenous Studies, and Radical Politics.


Professor Sarah Maddison is Professor of Politics in the School of Social and Political Sciences, and Director of the Australian Centre. She is particularly interested in work that helps reconceptualise political relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Australian settler state, including critical examinations of a range of relevant public policies. Her recent work has focused on the treaty process in Victoria, and she is currently working with the Australian Centre’s Deputy Director, Julia Hurst, exploring the role of truth-telling in treaty making. Sarah has also designed the Professional Certificate in Treaty, which includes the Preparing for Treaty series of Melbourne MicroCerts.

Sarah has published widely in international journals and is the author or editor of nine books including, most recently, The Colonial Fantasy: Why white Australia can’t solve black problems (2019). Her other books in the field include The Limits of Settler Colonial Reconciliation (2016), Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation (2015), Beyond White Guilt (2011), Unsettling the Settler State (2011), and Black Politics (2009). Sarah has led numerous research projects and was an Australian Research Council Future Fellow for 2011-14, undertaking a project that examined reconciliation in Australia, South Africa, Northern Ireland, and Guatemala. Her current ARC project is exploring intersections in Indigenous and settler governance regimes.

The presenter has granted permission for this recording to be used for personal viewing and educational purposes.