Indigeneity and the Settler Contract today

Robert Nichols

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34 Scopus citations


This article examines the application of social contract theorizing to questions pertaining to the rights of indigenous peoples today, with particular reference to recent work by Jeremy Waldron. It is argued that such theorizing must be examined with reference not only to the content of its claims, but also with respect to its general mode of argumentation and its political function in specific contexts. Read in this light, social contract theory may function to unduly deny the claims of indigenous peoples, oftentimes by shifting the register of debate to a relatively abstract and counter-factual level and relieving settler-colonial societies of the burden of proof. Insofar as social contract theory operates to this effect, it is analysed in terms of a 'Settler Contract'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-186
Number of pages22
JournalPhilosophy and Social Criticism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Indigeneity
  • Jeremy Waldron
  • settler-colonialism
  • social contract theory


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