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Against the Right of Self-Determination

Kyla Reid

University of Sydney

August 9, 2011

This paper argues that the discourse of self-determination should be rejected, or at least subject to serious skepticism, as the ideal discourse for articulating indigenous governance claims. First, this paper argues that some indigenous governance claims include a claim for non-statist governance forms. Given this non-statist orientation, the right to self-determination as formulated within the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) presents indigenous peoples with two equally unsatisfying scenarios: (i) the state is assumed legitimate and thus, non-statist communities, regardless of their claims, are subject to its authority or (ii) in order to be recognized as a viable alternative, non-statist groups must be prepared to exercise authority in a way that resembles the authority of the state. I refer to the combination of these scenarios as the double bind of the state. In the third section, I critically evaluate Allen Buchanan's attempts to rethink self-determination. I argue that Buchanan's account, like the framework for self-determination outlined in UNDRIP, fails to escape the double bind of the state. In the fourth section, I turn to Iris Marion Young's formulation. Whereas Buchanan fails to take the challenge to the paradigm of the state present in some indigenous governance claims seriously, Young's framework accommodates non-statist claims. That said, Young's continued use of the terminology of self-determination does no significant work in her account and, in fact, only serves to obscure the more radical aspects of her project. I argue it is more productive to read Young, not as rethinking self-determination, but as indicating, through the introduction of relational autonomy, the possibility for a political space beyond the state, and thus, beyond the current rights language of self-determination.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 27

Keywords: self-determination, indigenous peoples, Allan Buchanan, Iris Marion Young

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Date posted: August 4, 2011 ; Last revised: August 11, 2011

Suggested Citation

Reid, Kyla, Against the Right of Self-Determination (August 9, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1905257 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1905257

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Kyla Reid (Contact Author)
University of Sydney ( email )
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