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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Land, law and language : rhetorics of Indigenous rights and title Makmillen, Shurli


For good or ill, settler Indigenous relations in settler colonies around the world are being framed by longer and more complex texts. This renders the study of language more important than ever, especially as the frameworks and perspectives of Aboriginal people are increasingly given their due; it also raises the question about other strategies for resistance and redress, such as the role of the arts, politics, culture and media. This thesis explores these issues with respect to assumptions and debates about language and meaning, about language and culture, and about legal and literary language in a selection of genres in which natives and newcomers in British Columbia and Aotearoa/New Zealand mediate their claims about land, about government, and about what counts as legitimate knowledge. No longer is it correct to enforce paradigms of Western justice, nor to essentialize or exoticize Indigenous cultural production. But what is taking their place and how do particular rhetorics of language and of difference structure these legal and literary genres in this particular "contact zone"? That language is used in ways to serve situations is fundamental to rhetorical genre theory; that subsequent interpretations of this language use may serve subsequent often quite different situations is also of interest, and part of the action of genre. As a hermeneutical concept, genre can mediate between discourse and sentence levels of analysis in ways that keep audience effects in mind. But in the case of these genres both speakers and audiences can be polarized, dispersing intentions, uptakes, and effects. Theories of rhetoric and genre, which are my conceptual foundation, need amendment to account for this. Generating a more nuanced account of genre helps me develop a category of genres called contact genres: those genres in which rhetorical situations may be profoundly differently construed and yet they maintain their stability in order to address and dissolve colonialism’s culture.

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