Creolizing Collective Memory: Refusing the Settler Memory of the Reconstruction Era


  • Kevin Bruyneel Babson College



settler colonialism, collective memory, Reconstruction, Indigeneous Politics, US history


The collective memory of the Reconstruction era in US history is a good example of Jane Anna Gordon's notion of 'creolization' at work. I argue that this is an era that could do with even further creolizing by refusing the influence of settler memory. Settler memory refers to the capacity both to know and disavow the history and contemporary implications of genocidal violence toward Indigenous people and the accompanying land dispossession that serve as the fundamental bases for creating settler colonial nations-states. One of the most important works on the Reconstruction Era is W.E.B. Du Bois’ canonical text, Black Reconstruction in America: 1860–1880, published in 1935. I examine both the creolizing elements of DuBois' argument and also suggest how attention to settler memory can further creolize our grasp of this period through a re-reading of his text and putting it into the context of other developments occuring during the years he examines.

Author Biography

Kevin Bruyneel, Babson College

Kevin Bruyneel is Professor of Politics in the History & Society Division of Babson College in Wellesley MA. He wrote The Third Space of Sovereignty: The Postcolonial Politics of U.S.-Indigenous Relations, and presently writes on the relationship between race, colonialism and collective memory. He has recently published articles in History & Memory, Settler Colonial Studies, Native American and Indigenous Studies Journal, and The Canadian Journal of Political Science. He is presently working on a book project on the role of Settler Memory in US race discourse and politics.