Political Science and the Study of Indigenous Politics
40 Pages Posted: 18 May 2012 Last revised: 29 Oct 2012
Date Written: May 17, 2012
The discipline of political science does not take indigenous politics seriously. To be sure, there are political scientists who have made important contributions to the study of indigenous politics. However, the bulk of the discipline either does not place indigenous politics in its field of vision or it analyzes it through frameworks that forestall adequate analysis. The worst offender in this regard is American political science, both in the sense of the sub-field that studies the United States and the scholarship and institutions (i.e. political science departments, associations, journals) of the country. A good deal of my discussion will thus focus on American political science. But my focus will not be exclusively on the U.S. context, as I see the invisibility and distortion of indigenous politics to be a problem one can locate in other liberal-democracies built upon a foundation of settler-colonialism and across the sub-fields of political science. While there are a number of viable routes one can take to address this matter, I focus on two active and increasingly prevalent topics of study in political science scholarship; that is, first, work on sovereignty and the state and, second, work on race and ethnicity politics. As it concerns both areas, I reveal the predispositions within that shield or distract scholars from seeing the value and importance of indigenous politics. These predispositions are: i) the emphasis on sovereignty as an exclusive characteristic of the state; ii) the inability of much of the scholarship on the politics of race and ethnicity to account for or understand the political identity and politics of indigenous people. In my discussions of both areas and predispositions, there will be consistent reference to the role of settler-colonialism as a historical and persistent structuring force in political life. As such, my analysis of these topic areas and their predispositions is, among other things, an effort to refuse the general inattention to settler-colonialism in much of the political science discipline. In short, I claim that taking indigenous politics seriously means taking settler-colonialism seriously, and vice versa.
Keywords: Political Science, Indigenous Politics, Race and Ethnicity Politics, Settler Colonialism
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