Rifkin's exegesis is relevant far beyond nineteenth-century literary studies. As "settler colonialism" gains currency in left and academic circles as a descriptor of the present reality in the United States, Canada, Israel and elsewhere, there is a tendency to identify its workings only in the encounter between the colonizers and the colonized, the state and Indigenous peoples.
This is a mistake, Rifkin warns. None of the novels he interrogates deal specifically with Native people. Yet colonialism is not, he writes, a dynamic that inheres only Native bodies. Rather, it's a persistent "phenomenon that shapes nonnative subjectivities, intimacies, articulations and sensations separate from whether or not something recognizably Indian comes into view."
Colonialism is thus a common sense.