Subaltern Voices Series

Speaking & Theorizing from the Disciplinary Margins


Dr. Kiera Ladner (Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair (Indigenous Politics and Governance), University of Manitoba)

Topic: “Decolonizing the Discipline: Indigenous Peoples and Political Science.”

Dr. Isabel Altamirano-Jimenez (Assistant Professor, Political Science and Native Studies, University of Alberta).

Topic: “Indigenous Women and Feminism: Acting in the Political Space.”

Date: Thursday, 22 March, 2007

No recordings available for this session.

Dr. Ladner's Abstract: As a Masters student, I remember being told time and time again that if I wanted to ‘study Indians’ I belonged in sociology, anthropology or Native Studies. It seemed as if studies of Indigenous politics belonged anywhere but in political science. Times have changed. Studies of Indigenous politics are increasingly becoming an object of study within the discipline. Yet, political science continues to perpetuate a western-eurocentric understanding of the world that virtually denies ‘others’ a voice within the discipline. The emergence of Aboriginal peoples as an object of inquiry in the discipline of political science reflects their becoming active (or at least noticed) in the politics of the colonizer. Thus, Indigenous politics as an accepted field of inquiry within political science has had little to do with an interest in Indian politics per se, as it has simply been the study of Aboriginal people in mainstream, Canadian politics. Political science’s ability to understand Indigenous politics is limited because its knowledge can only view politics through western-eurocentric eyes within the disciplinary boundaries of political science. Political science must be destabilized and decolonized. In this paper will engage this process of decolonization and destabilization of the discipline, while offering my thoughts as to how we can begin to study and explain Indigenous politics as ‘Indigenous’.

Dr Altamirano’s Abstract: Despite appearances to the contrary, Indigenous women are complex figures to feminists. They are complex not only because of their double identity but because Indigenous women’s actions and political positions seem to point in contradictory directions. In fact, the divide between Indigenous women and feminism has influenced many discourses centered on determining Indigenous women’s ultimate political goal in the context of struggles for self-determination and sovereignty. In this paper, I argue that developing a Native feminist politics focused on self-government and self-determination requires a more critical analysis of Indigenous activists’ responses to feminism and sexism within Indigenous communities. Indigenous women’s perspectives cannot simply be reduced to the dichotomy of feminism versus non-feminism nor is there a clear relationship between the extent to which Indigenous women call themselves feminist and the extent to which they are ‘genuinely’ nationalists.

Dr. Keira Ladner's Bio: Dr. Ladner is an Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Politics and Governance in the Department of Political Studies at the University of Manitoba. Her research interests include: treaty constitutionalism, Indigenist theory and methodology, decolonization, constitutional politics, Indigenous governance (‘traditional’, Indian Act and self-government) and social movements. Her current community based research into constitutional reconciliation and decolonization attempts to create deeper understanding both within communities and between First Nations and Canada. Some of her recent publications include: “Up the Creek: Fishing for a New Constitutional Order,” Canadian Journal of Political Science (Dec. 2005); “De inferioite negociee a l’inutilite negocier: la Loi sur la gouvernance des Premieres Nations et le maintien de la politique coloniale,” Politique et Societes (2004, with M. Orsini); “Governing Within an Ecological Context: Creating an AlterNative Understanding of Blackfoot Governance,” in Studies in Political Economy 70, (Spring 2003): 125-52; “Women in Blackfoot Nationalism,” in J. Vickers & M. De Seve, eds., “Women and Nationalisms: Canadian Experiences,” Special Vol. Journal of Canadian Studies, (Sum 2000): 35-60.

Dr. Isabel Altamirano’s Bio:Dr. Altamirano is an Indigenous woman from southern Mexico and holds a joint appointment as Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. She has done extensive research comparing Indigenous politics in Canada and Mexico. Her research interests are: Indigenous comparative politics, nationalism, gender issues, Indigenous development and land rights. Among her recent publications are: “The Construction of Difference and Indigenous Transnationalism in North America”; “Indigenous Peoples and the Topography of Gender in Mexico and Canada”; and “North American First Peoples: Slipping up into Market Citizenship?