English 9163A

Indigenous Critical Theory: Key Concepts and Debates

Instructor: Professor Pauline Wakeham
Fall Half Course. Cross-listed with Theory.

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 dominant intellectual “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 knowledge to be colonized for the West’s own self-reinvention. This graduate seminar is premised upon the urgent need to do more than re-trace the spectres of Indigeneity in Western thought or even to critique the West’s unacknowledged debt to Indigenous intellectual cultures. Instead, this course will re-centre the transdisciplinary field of contemporary Indigenous theory and, in so doing, build a critical foundation for understanding key concepts and debates in the field of Indigenous studies.

In this context, the course will grapple with the following questions: How might scholars engage with Indigenous theory beyond paradigms of “writing back” or “theorizing back” against Empire? How might theory be mobilized to promote Indigenous rights and social justice? How do a range of Indigenous cultural practices constitute forms of theorizing? What is the relation between Indigenous critical theory and decolonization in practice? In exploring these and other questions, the course will consider how Indigenous thought offers important critical reappraisals of questions of identity, subjectivity, temporality, sovereignty, citizenship, and power. While the emphasis will be on Indigenous thought and cultural production in Canada and the United States, the course will also consider broader global concerns and contexts.

View the course syllabus here: English 9163A. PDF download