Over the years, I ran into Patrick many times at various Palestine solidarity events. Patrick was always genuinely happy to meet others and always had a kind and supportive word to say.
Sometime in 2011, during a phone call about Palestine solidarity activism, he invited me to his home for lunch as I said I would like sometime to pick his brain about settler-colonialism for my PhD thesis but sadly I never followed up on setting a time for the meeting, something I very much now regret.
Patrick was a giant in the field of settler-colonial studies. As I note in my tribute to him below, his work launched a major reconsideration of the role of settlement in colonisation and was at the forefront of research in his field. Patrick was also an unapologetic supporter of Palestine and the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. Patrick also actively supported Aboriginal rights and the struggle for refugee rights.
Over the next couple of days, I will also post an interview with Patrick on Palestine and settler-colonialism, as well as links to some of his works.
Good bye Patrick, you will be sadly missed by all those who knew you. Patrick's passing is a loss not only for the academic world but also the Palestinian people, who have lost a dedicated champion.
in solidarity, Kim
He researched and taught in Australia and internationally on race, colonialism, imperialism, genocide, the history of anthropology and Aboriginal history. His research examined race and settler colonialism in Australia, the USA, Israel, Brazil and India.
Settler colonialism and the transformation of anthropology initiated a major reassessment of the role of settlement in colonisation. This seminal study examined the European settlement and colonisation of Australia, demonstrating that the settlers operated as if the country were “empty” despite it being occupied by an indigenous population.
Wolfe explained that “invasion is a structure, not an event” and that settler colonialism is premised on the “elimination of the native”, this being achieved through either physical elimination or assimilation policies that sought to transform indigenous populations into “white people”. As he explained in a 2012 interview with Camryn Douglass of Stanford University:
“Settler-colonialism is a form of colonialism that is exclusive. It’s a ‘winner take all’, a zero-sum game, whereby outsiders come to a country, and seek to take it away from the people who already live there, remove them, replace them, and displace them, and take over the country, and make it their own.”
Wolfe regularly spoke at and participated in Palestine solidarity activities both in Melbourne and internationally. He was a solid supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, which was launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005 – a call for non-violent punitive measures to be maintained until Israel meets its international obligations and complies with international law.
He was a participant in the first national Australian BDS conference in 2010 and later lent his name, along with Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and Norman Finkelstein, to a defence letter in support of 19 activists arrested and charged over a peaceful BDS action in Melbourne.
In 2014, he joined more than 400 Middle Eastern scholars and librarians at the height of Israel’s 50-day bombing campaign of Gaza to condemn the murderous assault and to reiterate the call for the academic boycott of Israel.
Despite losing his house and much of his research work in 2009, when the Black Saturday fires swept through Healesville on the outskirts of Melbourne, Wolfe continued to contribute to settler colonial studies. Just one month before his death, he published two new books.
The first, Traces of history: elementary structures of race, outlines a new approach to race and comparative settler colonial studies. The second, The settler complex: recuperating binarism in colonial studies, is an edited volume of essays examining the assimilationist agendas in settler colonial states around the world.
With Wolfe’s passing, not only has the academic world lost a giant, but the Palestinian people have lost a dedicated champion.
[Kim Bullimore is the co-convener of the Melbourne Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid and was a co-organiser of the first Australian BDS conference in 2010. She blogs at livefromoccupiedpalestine.blogspot.com.au.]