Unsettled Expectations

Uncertainty, Land and Settler Decolonization

By Eva Mackey  

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What do local conflicts about land rights tell us about Indigenous-settler relations and the challenges and possibilities of decolonization? In Unsettled Expectations, Eva Mackey draws on ethnographic case studies about land rights conflicts in Canada and the U.S. to argue that critical analysis of present-day disputes over land, belonging and sovereignty will help us understand how colonization is reproduced today and how to challenge it. Employing theoretical approaches from Indigenous and settler colonial studies, and in the context of critical historical and legal analysis, Mackey urges us to rethink the assumptions of settler certainty that underpin current conflicts between settlers and Indigenous peoples and reveals settler privilege to be a doomed fantasy of entitlement.

Finally, Mackey draws on case studies of Indigenous-settler alliances to show how embracing difficult uncertainty can be an integral part of undoing settler privilege and a step toward decolonization.

“Lucid and accessible, Unsettled Expectations will appeal to general readers, students and professors, activists and NGO workers, government policy-makers, members of the legal profession, and media.”

— Daniel Coleman, McMaster University

“An invaluable contribution to the scholarly literature on settler colonialism.”

— Mark Rifkin, author of Settler Common Sense

“Provides the reader with a comprehensive and highly insightful depiction of settlers’ understandings of relations with Indigenous peoples as these are played out on issues of land rights on both sides of the border.”

— Michael Asch, author of On Being Here to Stay

  • EPUB
  • ISBN: 9781552668986
  • September 2016
  • $24.00
  • For sale worldwide
  • Kindle
  • ISBN: 9781552668993
  • September 2016
  • $24.00
  • For sale worldwide

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  • “Dr Mackey’s ethnographic case studies show how visceral, deep, and successful the doctrine of terra nullius, western property law, and colonial concepts of blood, memory, identity, and storytelling have been at dividing communities.”

    — Reviewed by: Lindsay Borrows, West Coast Environmental Law, Canada, AlterNative 1–2, 2017 (full review)


  • Part 1: Contact Zones and the Settler Colonial Present
  • Introduction: Settler Colonialism and contested Homelands
  • Genealogies of Certainty and Uncertainty
  • Fantasizing and Legitimating Possession
  • Part 2: Ontological Uncertainties and Resurgent Colonialism
  • Introduction: Unsettled Feelings and Communities
  • Defending Expectations
  • Settler Juridictional Imaginaries in Practice: Equality, Law, Race and Multiculturalism
  • Part 3: Imagining Otherwise: Embracing Settler Uncertainty
  • Introduction: Treaty as a Verb
  • “Turning the Doctrine of Discovery on its Head”: The Onondaga Land Rights Action
  • Creative Uncertainty and Decolonizing Relations
  • Epilogue: “Even After Everything”
  • References
  • Index


  • Eva Mackey

    Eva Mackey is the author of House of Difference: Cultural Politics and National Identity in Canada and is an associate professor in the School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies at Carleton University.

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