Is China a Settler State? The Critique and Expansion of Settler Colonial Theory

  • Author / Creator
    Gu, Qingchuan
  • In this thesis, I critique extant theories of settler colonialism to find one that can be applied to the Chinese state. As most settler colonial theories emerge from Anglo-settler states, they contain specificities that do not work when applied to China. Furthermore, extant theories are produced within the historical and ongoing conditions of empire and, thus, may obfuscate settler colonial phenomenon rather than illuminate. I argue that for settler colonial theory to expand, it must confront its imperial trace. This can be done by focusing on the analytic of colonial effect (what the colonised experience) over that of colonial intent (what colonisers intend to do). Using this analytic, I critique the theories of Patrick Wolfe, Glen Coulthard, and Caroline Elkins & Susan Pedersen. I find that although Wolfe’s theory derives from the experience of the colonised, it maintains an imperial trace due to indistinction in his definition of genocide and the grammar of intent he uses to describe settler colonialism. Conversely, Coulthard’s theory transcends the grammar of intent, and emerges solely from the analytic of colonial effect. I further find that Coulthard’s theory heuristically combines Wolfe’s concepts of territoriality and elimination, and comparative analysis between the two theorists reveals settler colonialism to be fractal in nature. Lastly, I find Elkins and Pedersen’s theory to elide the experience of the colonised, thus obfuscating settler colonial phenomenon. In the final chapter of this thesis, I use Coulthard’s theory to analyze Uyghur-state relations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. I argue that Chinese state practices regarding land dispossession, Han settlement, and Uyghur assimilation show that China is a settler state.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.