Settler Colonialism, Then and Now. [Text of Prof. Mamdani's lecture at the 10th Annual Edward Said Memorial Lecture at Princeton University delivered on 6th Dec. 2012].

Europeans who came to the New World were preoccupied with the ways in which the it was not like Europe. Eurocentric thought was second nature with them.  Over the centuries that followed, there developed a body of work known as American Exceptionalism.  The benchmark text for this scholarship is the mid-19th century reflection on America by the French aristocrat and political theorist, Alexis de Tocqueville, was the benchmark for the body of work that focused on American exceptionalism.  Even today, Democracy in America is required reading in most programs in political theory or American politics.  De Tocqueville argued in Democracy in America that the key feature distinguishing America from Europe was the absence of feudalism: not tied down by the baggage of feudal tradition, America could enjoy the benefits of revolutionary change without having to pay its price.    

            Ever since De Tocqueville, an important section of America’s thinkers have written its autobiography as reflected in a European mirror.  A Eurocentric perspective has shaped the contours of an important part of American political theory.  The American autobiography is written as the autobiography of the settler.  The native has no place in it. The official museum built in Washington D.C. to commemorate this history is called the Museum of the American Indian, not the Museum of the Native American.  Most American tribes call themselves Indians, not Natives.  The reluctance to speak of themselves as Native Americans springs from a profound sense of not being a part of America as a political community...

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