Theft is Property! An Online Talk by Robert Nichols

Hosted by

Jackman Humanities Institute


Drawing on Indigenous peoples' struggles against settler colonialism, Theft Is Property! reconstructs the concept of dispossession as a means of explaining how shifting configurations of law, property, race, and rights have functioned as modes of governance, both historically and in the present. 

Through close analysis of arguments by Indigenous scholars and activists from the nineteenth century to the present, Robert Nichols argues that dispossession has come to name a unique recursive process whereby systematic theft is the mechanism by which property relations are generated. 

In so doing, Nichols also brings long-standing debates in anarchist, Black radical, feminist, Marxist, and postcolonial thought into direct conversation with the frequently overlooked intellectual contributions of Indigenous peoples.

Complete text:

Robert Nichols is an Associate Professor of Political Theory in the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities). His areas of research specialization include contemporary European philosophy and political theory (esp. Critical Theory, Marx and Marxism, Foucault); the history of political thought (esp. pertaining to imperialism and colonialism in the 19th century); and the contemporary politics of settler colonialism and indigeneity in the Anglo-American world. Before joining the University of Minnesota, Professor Nichols was Alexander von Humboldt Faculty Research Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. He has also held academic posts at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (France), the University of Alberta (Canada), University of Cambridge (UK), and Columbia University (USA). He is the recipient of grants and awards from the Fulbright, Humboldt, Killam, McKnight, and Trudeau Foundations, as well as from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Shiri Pasternak is Assistant Professor in Criminology at Ryerson University. She is the author of Grounded Authority: the Algonquins of Barriere Lake Against the State (University of Minnesota Press, 2017). Her research interests involve interdisciplinary approaches to Indigenous jurisdiction, resource economies, and Crown-First Nations’ relations. She publishes in the fields of legal and historical geography, settler colonial studies, political economy, and critical legal studies.

Uahikea Maile is a Kanaka Maoli scholar, activist, and practitioner from Maunawili, Oahu. He is Assistant Professor of Indigenous Politics in the Department of Political Science and affiliate faculty in the Centre for Indigenous Studies at the University of Toronto. Maile’s research interests include history, law, and activism on Hawaiian sovereignty; Indigenous critical theory; settler colonialism; political economy; feminist and queer theories; and decolonization. He is preparing a book manuscript, Na Makana Ea: Settler Colonial Capitalism and the Gifts of Hawaiian Sovereignty, which examines settler colonial capitalism in Hawaii and gifts of sovereignty that seek to overturn it by issuing responsibilities for balancing relationships with aina, the land.