Critical Public Conversations: Exploring Indigenous Settler Relations

Webinar series 2021. More information, registration and recordings.

All webinars will be conducted via Zoom. Register for each webinar via the Eventbrite links below, and the Zoom link will be emailed to you on the day.

In the introduction to their edited book Questioning Indigenous-Settler Relations , co-founders of the Indigenous Settler Relations Collaboration (ISRC) Associate Professor Sana Nakata and Professor Sarah Maddison, argue for a scholarship which traverses the interface between First Nations and the settler state through questions of relationality.

For Maddison, Nakata and contributing authors, relationality – rooted in Indigenous epistemological traditions - functions as a key analytical framework with which to explore the who, what, when, where, and why of Indigenous settler relations; “who steps into these relations and how; what are the different temporal and historical moments in which these relations take place and to what effect; where do these relations exist around the world and what are the variations they take on in different places; and why are these relations important for the examination of social and political life in the 21st century?” (1)

This focus on relationality marks a deliberate move away from a critical interrogation of settler colonialism’s impact upon Indigenous peoples, or a postcolonial and decolonial scholarship which speaks back to settlers. Rather, the intention is to contrast and augment these approaches through an exploration of the social, legal and political conditions though which relations between and amongst Indigenous and settler peoples manifest, in the hope of facilitating more just dynamics and possibilities (3). This is to resist uncritically (re)producing the unequal and unjust conditions of settler colonialism as inevitable, immutable and omnipotent, but not to ignore or depoliticise them.

Three years on from its establishment, the ISRC seeks to return to these foundational questions via the 2021 program of its Critical Public Conversations webinar series. The structure of the webinars will primarily centre partnerships, collaborations, dialogues and conversations happening within the space, to reinforce the concept of relationality as practice. Join us, as we host a range of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars contributing to the emerging interdisciplinary field of Indigenous settler relations, attending to its possibilities and limitations through critical reflections on what this field is, and what it does.

Keynote: Why relations?

Wednesday 24 March 12pm (AEDT)

Associate Professor Sana Nakata and Professor Sarah Maddison

As the founders and co-directors of the Indigenous Settler Relations Collaboration we have made a deliberate choice to focus on relationships and relationality as a site of enquiry. Elsewhere, we have argued that ‘creating more just relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Australian state is one of the most profound and important challenges this country faces’ (Nakata & Maddison, 2020). Our approach to framing this challenge as a field of research draws from the structuralism of both settler colonial studies and decolonial studies/critical race theory. These fields posit that the ongoing injustice in relationships between Indigenous peoples and settler societies is perpetuated by the structures of colonialism and racism. This is undoubtedly true, and it is important to map and contest those structures, recognising that it is Indigenous people’s ongoing resistance that most often makes these structures visible. At the same time, however, much mainstream scholarship focuses on the lives and bodies of Indigenous peoples, drawing attention away from the structures that perpetuate injustice.

By contrast, our approach centres relationality as a way of decentering disciplinary authority to know Indigenous peoples. Focusing on relations and relationality is expansive. Indigenous settler relations are inevitable and everywhere – in every part of the continent, in every school, hospital, prison and university, in every discipline. Focusing on relationality reveals and denaturalises the structures of colonialism and racism and opens a productive space for transformative scholarship and engagement. This approach is not without risk, however, as relations are not always among equals. A critical and reflexive approach to Indigenous-settler relations then, becomes a practice of exploring these expansive sites of potential transformation while also considering whether the very relation itself is part of the problem.

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Relationalist ethical impulse amidst colonial violence

Wednesday 7 April 12pm (AEST)

Associate Professor Morgan Brigg and Dr Mary Graham

Relationalism is a central conceptual and practical feature of Aboriginal political ordering. We first articulate some of the key elements and characteristics of this relationism as posited in our contribution to the recuperative work of articulating Aboriginal political philosophy. Second, we argue that this relationalism enables and produces an ethical impulse contra survivalist and sovereign tendencies of western political thought, leading to the claim that relationalism is a vehicle for the pursuit of Aboriginal-informed political ordering and Australian nation-building. Third, we ask: How might such relationalism be mobilised amidst our present settler-colonial relations? We argue that recalibrating relations with land and place are a way to begin, but that mobilising relationalism requires viscerally inhabiting relations of intimate entanglement that mix support with destruction, care with brutal violence (including the state killing of deaths in custody), and appreciation with shocking disregard.

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Decolonizing Palestine Solidarity Politics and the Commitment to Relationality

Wednesday 19 May 10am (AEST) / Tuesday 18 May 8-9pm (EDT)

Professor J. KÄ“haulani Kauanui

This talk is drawn from book in-progress,“Indigenous Implications: Decolonizing Palestine Solidarity Politics,” which explores U.S.-based solidarity activism in relation to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel – and the ethics of challenging one settler colonial state while positioned in another. While many in the movement rightly criticize U.S. imperialism, fewer challenge U.S. settler colonialism. Thus, the work argues for a more ethically consistent approach for activists engaged in solidarity campaigns while based on Indigenous lands claimed by the United States – extending the work of anti-normalization “at home.” Given the limits of both occupation and apartheid as legal and analytical frameworks, one can see that settler colonialism is a more precise model for understanding and reckoning with Israel’s domination of historic Palestine and the Palestinian people, given that land expropriation is the centerpiece of the Zionist political project. The implications of the settler colonial frame, then, necessitates challenging activist discourses of exceptionalism regarding the Israel-Palestine case. The foundations that have forged the nation-states of the U.S. and Israel are not merely analogous, they are shaped from many of the same material and symbolic forces. By triangulating the relations between and amongst U.S. settlers, Palestinians, and Indigenous people(s), the presentation pushes on the frameworks of solidarity, advocating for a politics of decolonization that challenges the (re)production of the structural integrity of both settler colonial states.

Further reading and resources list

Indigenous-Settler Relationality through the Lens of Indigenous Human Rights Implementation

Wednesday 23 June 11am (AEST) / Tuesday 22 June 6pm (PDT)

Associate Professor Sheryl Lightfoot

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) emerged out of community-level meetings and Indigenous advocacy movements in the 1970s to eventually become the global standard on Indigenous-state relationships as well as Indigenous-settler relations. Passed by the UN General Assembly in 2007, UNDRIP represents the minimum standard of Indigenous human rights, and its 46 articles provide guidance on Indigenous-settler relationality. However, the record of actual implementation of Indigenous human rights, in practice, has been mixed in the years since 2007. This presentation will explore the various pathways to implementation currently being undertaken at different levels of governance around the world with special attention paid to the legislative experiment underway in Canada, and especially in the province of British Columbia.

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Dismantling Settler Futures

Wednesday 18 August 12pm (AEST)

Dr Elizabeth Strakosch and Dr Alissa Macoun
In previous work together, we identify settler colonial technologies of temporality operating through Australian Indigenous policy, and argue that often unacknowledged stories of the colonial future sustain the settler project. In this discussion, we explore the relationship between what Tuck and Yang (2012) have called settler futurity, and the violence produced by a settler order permanently invested in securing an inherently fragile claim to sovereign legitimacy. As white colonisers simultaneously complicit in and seeking to challenge the Australian racial-colonial project, we consider how European understandings of sovereignty shape settler temporalities and inflect our commitments to apparently ‘decolonising’ agendas at the level of political orders, settler political and academic institutions, and subjectivities. We discuss the implications of this for our own political investments and responsibilities, and reflect on what this might mean for our models of solidarity. How might settler anti-colonial praxis engage the here and now – and begin to more effectively refuse settler futures?

Event postponed to 2022.

Indigenous-Settler Relations Beyond Recognition

Wednesday 20 October 12pm (AEDT)

Associate Professor Lorenzo Veracini

Sarah Maddison and Sana Nakata’s call is for scholarship able to traverse ‘the interface between Indigenous nations and the settler state’. They focus on ‘relationality’. Relationality, of course, must be premised on recognition, and ‘recognition’ has indeed been a topic of interest in discussions concerning indigenous-settler relations under settler colonialism. My intervention focuses on a contextual approach to recognition.

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A Short History of the Blockade

Wednesday 24 November 11am (AEDT) / Tuesday 23 November 7pm (EST)

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

In A Short History of the Blockade, award-winning writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson uses Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg stories, storytelling aesthetics, and practices to explore the generative nature of Indigenous blockades through our relative, the beaver—or in Nishnaabemowin, Amik. Moving through genres, shifting through time, amikwag stories become a lens for the life-giving possibilities of dams and the world-building possibilities of blockades, deepening our understanding of Indigenous resistance as both a negation and an affirmation.

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More Information

Indigenous Settler Relations Collaboration

I-SRC@unimelb.edu.au

+613 8344 1276