9617 - Theorizing Indigeneity / Indigenizing Theory - Pauline Wakeham
In her groundbreaking work, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith considers the historical forces and power asymmetries that have created a global academia founded upon a “text world in which the centre of […] knowledge is either in Britain, the United States, or Western Europe” (Smith 35) and, moreover, where theory is naturalized as the invention and provenance of the West. Ironically, at the core of much Western thought, Indigeneity constitutes the sometimes repressed and sometimes overt catalyst for theorization—the figure of radical alterity, the bearer of “the gift,” the carrier of “secrets” to be colonized for the West’s own self-reinvention. However, this graduate seminar is premised upon the urgent need to do more than re-trace the spectres of Indigeneity in Western thought or even examine the West’s unacknowledged debt to Indigenous intellectual culture. This graduate course will, instead, challenge the limits of theory’s traditional “text world” by engaging with the heterogeneous, transdisciplinary field of contemporary Indigenous thought, a field in which Indigenous peoples are the agents, instead of the objects, of theory.
In this context, the course will grapple with the following questions: What might it mean to read Indigenous and Western theory dialectically—rather than dichotomously—while still acknowledging the radically uneven structures of power that have shaped both systems of thought? What might be some of the surprising intimacies between Western and Indigenous epistemologies and theories and what might be their points of divergence? How might we engage with Indigenous theories beyond paradigms of “writing back” or “theorizing back” against Empire? Moreover, how might we dismantle the West as a reference point altogether and read Indigenous theory on its own terms? In exploring these and other questions, the course will consider in detail how both thinking Indigeneity and Indigenous thinking enable important critical reappraisals of questions of identity, subjectivity, temporality, sovereignty, citizenship, and power.
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