The settler coloniality of free speech

Leigh, Darcy (2022) The settler coloniality of free speech. International Political Sociology, 16 (3). pp. 1-18. ISSN 1749-5679

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Public and scholarly debates surrounding free speech often assume free speech is a public good and/or should be approached as a problem of ‘drawing the line’ between free and regulated or benign and harmful speech. In contrast, this article provides a genealogy of free speech in which liberal freedom of expression has, since its inception, been integral to white supremacist settler colonialism in the UK and its former settler colonies, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The article argues that, far from a noble struggle against regulation, liberal politics around the freedom of free speech establish oppositions between white ‘civilized’ speech and its Indigenized racially figured ‘others’, as well as controlling or silencing Indigenous, Black and/or otherwise racially othered speech across the Anglosphere. The article first traces free speech through two significant moments in its emergence: early European Enlightenment colonial expansion (embodied in John Locke’s ‘toleration’); and 1800s British colonial industrialisation (embodied in John Stuart Mill’s ‘marketplace of ideas’). The article then examines how this genealogy informs the contemporary case study of contestation over free speech in universities, showing that engagements with free speech across the political spectrum extend its settler colonial rationality.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Law
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2022 10:02
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2022 13:45

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