Previously we’ve looked at the term “structure” as it relates to settler colonialism – following Patrick Wolfe’s call to be attentive to how settlement is a social, political, economic and environmental framework based on a central logic of elimination, rather than a one-time encounter or event.
In this post, I want to think about how we frame the conversation more broadly, expanding the structural nature of settler colonialism to think about how colonialism writ large is not confined to a historic episode, but instead is an aspect of European capitalism and thus underpins our contemporary society. In reframing colonialism as structural, rather than episodic, we can begin to understand the work that needs to be done to address the inequities that are built into our institutions, rather than simply seeking to move past histories of exploitation.
Museums are an apt reminder of this. Specimens were collected for study and the resulting collections served to illustrate the theories that were developed to justify exploitative structures. Before we can begin to think about the project of decolonisation from a museum context, we must first understand the structures we are beginning to reckon with.