Duke University Press
Robert Nichols’s Theft is Property does the work of explicating the confounding gaps, paradoxes and convenient impossibilities by which settler colonial violence does its day-to-day work. This book is not specific to artistic practice per se. However, its political analysis is highly useful in comprehending the institutional structures amid which contemporary art is often bound up – particularly so in European and White Anglophone contexts. The titular essay ‘Theft Is Property!’ is an indispensable resource. It places radical European 18th century critiques of property alongside critiques made by Indigenous authors, and breathtakingly demonstrates the shortcomings of some of the most heralded European emancipatory efforts.
Namely, colonization entails the large-scale transfer of land that simultaneously recodes the object of exchange in question such that it appears retrospectively to be a form of theft in the ordinary sense. It is thus not (only) about the transfer of property, but the transformation into property.