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Not Built to Last: Military Occupation and Ruination under Settler Colonialism

By Joseph Weiss

Cite As:
Weiss, Joseph. 2021. “Not Built to Last: Military Occupation and Ruination under Settler Colonialism.” Cultural Anthropology 36, no. 3: 484–508.


This article explores the afterlife of a military base on the islands of Haida Gwaii, unceded territory of the Indigenous Haida Nation. Canadian Forces Station Masset was officially decommissioned in 1997, its buildings abandoned by Canada’s armed forces. The understanding of both Haida and their settler neighbors was thus that the army was gone, leaving only ruins and ambivalent affects in its wake. Yet the military had not actually left; rather, it remained in concealment, continuing to monitor the territory it had occupied. At work in this strange juxtaposition of absence and presence, I argue, is the deliberate production of a paradox, a constitutive contradiction that serves to reinforce the structures of settler domination even as it mitigates the visible presence of the forces of occupation. The affects of ruination engendered by the military’s departure, I contend, form part of these processes of settler concealment and deception.


settler colonialism; Indigeneity; ruination; militarism; occupation