Indigenous Peoples and Colonialism
Indigenous Peoples and Colonialism
In 2007 the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Its success was largely the result of the dedicated and persistent activism of indigenous social movements in the face of resolute opposition from states with indigenous populations. Although it is not legally binding, the Declaration means that the relationships between national governments and indigenous peoples can no longer be consigned to matters of 'domestic' policy only. The demands by members of indigenous communities for designated international rights for indigenous peoples emerged from longstanding colonial occupation, dispossession and induced transformations of distinct peoples, often justified as an inevitable consequence of modernity.
Our book underlines the connections between modernity and colonialism. In particular, it focuses on colonialism as a modern and contemporary experience. We aim to contribute to an understanding of these dynamics by examining how indigenous peoples have been dealt with under European and other types of geopolitical expansion and how they continue to be treated today as their lands are targeted for settlement, agriculture, industrialization and fossil fuel extraction. The main ideology that legitimates these modern processes is Western liberalism, a body of ideas that has most often been represented as universal and emancipatory. We attempt to show how liberal ideas are applied differentially and selectively and how they often masquerade for decidedly illiberal policies and actions. Social scientific and literary writers as diverse as W.E.B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, Hannah Arendt, bell hooks, Vine Deloria, Edward Said, Paul Gilroy and Enrique Dussel have extended the critique of modernity into this domain. Furthermore, numerous contemporary indigenous scholars such as Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Pamela Palmater, Devon Mihesuah, Taiaiake Alfred, Glen Sean Coulthard, Audra Simpson, Leanne Simpson, Robert Warrior, James Fenelon, Dale Turner, Duane Champagne, Gerald Vizenor, N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko and scores of younger indigenous writers, academics, activists, and commentators are daily adding to the varied corpus of knowledge of the ongoing colonial aspects of modernity.
Our discipline, sociology, has not made the study of colonialism a priority. Instead, it has primarily looked at 'society' parochially from the vantage point of nineteenth-and twentieth-century theories that argued that developments such as democracy, rationalism, the state and industrialism made the West uniquely progressive. Although sociologists have examined empires, they have largely excluded indigenous societies from modernity, and indigenous scholars, writers and orators have rarely been used as sources of authority. The omission of indigenous peoples in sociology can be explained by the fact that, although many rejected elements of the social evolutionist ideology of early social science (Kurasawa 2004), they constructed 'stages' of human society which positioned indigenous peoples further back in history. Consequently, 'founding fathers' such as Weber, Durkheim and Marx made the rise of Europe their main focus (Samson and Short 2006). The study of indigenous peoples was left to anthropology and various types of natural science, including the subfield of scientific racism. These academic divisions have yet to be completely transcended. Sociologists who in the past analysed colonialism and empires have been retroactively assigned to anthropology (Steinmetz 2013: 1), and sociologists such as us are often assumed to be anthropologists simply because of our interests in indigenous societies.
The Eurocentric nature of the social sciences is of course well noted by numerous scholars around the world. It has provided an impetus for new theorizations from the 'global South' (Connell 2007) and attempts to reconceptualize the discip