Pasts and Futures of Injustice

35 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2014

Date Written: 2014


Those who face long-standing conditions of disadvantage must, in many cases, envision radically new futures if they are to overcome deep presumptions associated with their mistreatment, both by others and among their own members. For American Indian and other Aboriginal populations, for example, James Youngblood Henderson argues that it is necessary to “dream the seemingly impossible”. Yet there are reasons for caution about taking these visions as literal guides to political action. There are at least two kinds of problems. First, such visions, even if they would help future generations live the most fulfilling lives possible if realized, may make it more difficult to pursue strategic political action where social orders remain fundamentally at odds with this vision in the present. Second, conditions of long-standing injustice often make it difficult to determine precisely what justice and a flourishing human life entails, so that attempts to envision successful futures for generations still to come are likely to misfire in their substance as well. In these circumstances, the paper argues, it will generally make the most sense for Aboriginal peoples and others to treat visions of the future as self-consciously uncertain and protean tools for thinking, which are expected to need deep reinterpretation as political life moves forward.

Keywords: Aboriginal peoples; future generations; ideal theory; non-ideal theory; anarchism; Taiaiake Alfred; Gordon Christie; James Youngblood Henderson.

Suggested Citation

Hendrix, Burke, Pasts and Futures of Injustice (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Burke Hendrix (Contact Author)

University of Oregon ( email )

Eugene, OR 97403
United States
607-351-1588 (Phone)

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