The Geography of the Crown: Law and the Political Geography of Settler Colonialism - Patricia Burke Wood

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Patricia Burke Wood seminar details

The Geography of the Crown: Law and the Political Geography of Settler Colonialism

Patricia Burke Wood
Professor of Geography, York University

Thursday, October 17, 2019
3-4 p.m.
(30-minute talk + 30 minutes for discussion)
AH 100 (Andy's Place)

Co-sponsored by the Departments of Geography and Women and Gender Studies


The Crown, its honour and its duties, are all inventions of British and Canadian law. They are best understood in their specific historical-geographic context, particularly settler-colonialism. They emerged for strategic purposes and are not universal concepts, even among settler societies formerly part of the British Empire. Imperial actors employed legal discourse to secure geography, to render the Crown’s largely unpracticed and abstract claims more real. This assertion was, and continues to be, challenged by pre-existing Aboriginal political geographies. In its efforts to address these tensions in cases of Aboriginal title and rights claims, the Court makes use of the Crown, its honour and duties, but avoids fundamental questions of political geography, most notably in the recent decision of Mikisew Cree (2018). The unresolved point of tension in Mikisew Cree and other cases is the origin and legitimacy of the Crown’s assertion of territorial sovereignty. Through a geographic critique of the legal history of Aboriginal title, this presentation will argue that in the context of settler colonialism in Canada, “the Crown” is a land claim and should be treated as such.


Patricia Burke Wood is Professor of Geography at York University. She studies citizenship, activism, and governance, particularly the experiences of marginalized groups whose way of life brings them into conflict with their neighbouring communities or the state. She is also conducting comparative research on municipal and urban regional governance. With David Rossiter, she is the co-author of several articles on the politics of Aboriginal title in British Columbia and they are currently completing a book on the subject for UBC Press.

Room or Area: 

Andy's Place


Deb Bullock | | (403) 329-2225

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