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Indigenous Politics of Recognition and Sovereignty

Recognition and sovereignty are key terms of the contemporary debate over the past and future of Indigenous peoples in Australia. But what work do these terms actually do for making sense of Indigenous struggles for justice? To what extent to they support that struggle? Do these terms need more reflective and critical articulation? If so, how might this change the nature of the contemporary recognition and sovereignty debates? This theme will bring together outstanding indigenous scholars and public intellectuals from Australia and Canada to illuminate these issues from multiple perspectives and experiences.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Citizenisation and Sovereignty within the Settler State: Negotiating Indigeneity and Belonging within a Constitutional Rights Framework – Johnny Mack

My intention is to provide a critical account of how state sovereignty engages juridical mechanisms and processes of citizenisation to fold indigenous polities into the state’s public and its associated regulatory paraphernalia. The underlying and rather common sense claim is that there is an inverse relationship between the state’s indigenous citizenisation project and Indigenous modalities of belonging to a territory and people. The more indigenous peoples come to see themselves as citizens of the state’s public, the less space is available to maintain their indigenous ‘publics’ that precede and counter the state. To support this claim, I will provide a biographical account
of belonging to an Indigenous Nation that has comprehensively folded themselves into the state public by signing the Maa-nulth Treaty Agreement in 2007 (MFA). When given effect in 2011, the MFA dissolves the pre-existing political units—here the Indian Act Bands—and reconstitutes them within the terms of the agreement. Those who object to the Treaty are left disenfranchised, with no nation to belong to. The paper will conclude with a more constructive discussion that frames the juridical forms of citizenship prescribed by the MFA as legal-centric, representing one juridical form that has not fully eclipsed the indigenous modes of belonging through lineages attaching us to one another and territory.


Living Sovereignty: The Yidindji – Murrumu Walabura and Gaan-Yarra Yalmabara

Further Reflections on Aboriginal Sovereignty – Dory Nason, Johnny Mack, Irene Watson, Jennifer Nedelsky, Jennifer Newman

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Raw Law: Aboriginal Peoples, Colonialism, and International Law – Irene Watson

I am interested in the legality and impact of colonisation from the viewpoint of Aboriginal law, rather than from that of the dominant Western legal tradition. I begin by outlining the Aboriginal legal system as it is embedded in Aboriginal people’s complex relationship with their ancestral lands. This is Raw Law: a natural system of obligations and benefits, flowing from an Aboriginal ontology. By placing Raw Law at the centre of an analysis of colonisation, we can thereby decentre the usual analytical tendency to privilege the dominant structures and concepts of Western law. From the perspective of Aboriginal law, colonisation was a violation of the code of political and social conduct embodied in Raw Law. Its effects were damaging. It forced Aboriginal peoples to violate their own principles of natural responsibility to self, community, country and future existence. This analysis is not simply an invitation to mourning; it also invites celebration of the resilience of Aboriginal ways, and a call for these to be recognised as central in discussions of colonial and postcolonial legality.

Recognition and/or Sovereignty – Dory Nason, Johnny Mack, Murrumu Walabura, Irene Watson, Gaan-Yarra Yalmabara, Jennifer Newman, Linda Martin Alcoff, Joseph Carens, Nikolas Kompridis, Jennifer Nedelsky



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