Malcolm's Reviews > Indigenous Experience Today

Indigenous Experience Today by Marisol de la Cadena
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's review
Jul 23, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: first-nations

The opening sentence of this book identifies a fundamental shift in global cultural politics; at the beginning of the 20th century indigenous peoples were dying out and destined to fade away – or so orthodoxy held, and yet a century later these same peoples are a major force in global politics, we can identify a political position that we can call indigenism, and it seems as if peoples are falling over themselves to claim the label. This collection does extremely well to unsettle both those views, and explores the contradictions and complexities of being indigenous in the early 21st century.

International bodies such as the UN have backed off from any attempts to define indigenous – so we have the seemingly bizarre position of Afrikaaners and Scottish crofters claiming indigenousness, and therefore a right to be heard in the debates about the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This failure to define, and the contested claims of what indigenous means, is directly confronted by this collection – so we see essays exploring the reasons why the language of indigenousness is not used in Tibetan politics, the paradoxical political positions of 'tribal' peoples in India, and cynical deployments of indigenous status in Botswana to deny the political rights of the state's longest resident ethnic groups.

There are several exemplary and challenging chapters – Valerie Lambert's unpacking of the complexities of the sovereignty of the Choctaw nation in Oklahoma, Michael Brown's on the antagonisms involved in sovereignty as notion and practice, Claudia Briones on the multiple ways of being Mapuche. But for me the stand outs (which is a direct result of my areas of research about indigeneity) are James Clifford's on indigeneity in diaspora, homelands, and sovereign relations, and Julie Cruikshank's on researcher's and indigneous knowledges in Canadian/Alaskan border areas.

The concluding short essay by Mary Louise Pratt is provocative, and reminds us that as scholars, while all most of us do is demonstrate compexity in thr subject of our study, when we should be requiring or demanding new forms of thinking. A great collection.

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