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Reading: Cultural Genocide in Joe Sacco's Paying the Land


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Cultural Genocide in Joe Sacco's Paying the Land


Johannes C.P. Schmid

Europa-Universität Flensburg, DE
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This article explores the representation of cultural genocide in the case of Canada’s Indigenous peoples in Joe Sacco’s documentary graphic narrative Paying the Land, which focuses on the Indigenous Dene peoples in the Canadian Northwest Territories. Specifically, the article discusses Sacco’s depiction of perpetrators of the so-called Indian Residential School System (IRSS), which is contrasted with portrayals of intracommunal violence and Indigenous perpetrators. Through graphic narrative means, Paying the Land presents the latter as an aftereffect of the former and extensively explores how cycles of domestic violence and substance abuse were initiated through the attempted destruction of Indigenous peoples as a group, a process in which the residential schools played an important role. In doing so, Sacco specifically addresses a North American audience as implicated subjects who, like himself, are entangled in settler-colonial histories. He investigates the complexities of perpetratorship and accountability that involves not only the policymakers and residential school staff but also North American society at large. In respect to intracommunal violence among the Dene, Paying the Land seeks to shift public perception from inherently ‘deficient’ Indigenous culprits toward an understanding of the colonial policies that have purposefully eroded social cohesion among Indigenous peoples.
How to Cite: Schmid, J.C.P., 2022. Cultural Genocide in Joe Sacco's Paying the Land. Journal of Perpetrator Research, 4(2), p.None. DOI:
Published on 10 Sep 2022.
Peer Reviewed


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