Sunday, March 8, 2015

Top Ten Critical Indigenous Studies Texts

The ten best books on indigenous methodologies, with a bias towards mapping.  I won't say that it is the all-time best list, but that it is 'a' current selection from 'the' best of what's out there.

What counts as a 'critical' indigenous text?  In my opinion, the text must be critical across the board, reassessing writing from indigenous and non-indigenous scholars alike.  It must be methodological, and theoretically challenging, pushing thinking in new directions.  It cannot accept status-quo formulations.  It should express world-historic content in some sense, without being overtly/overly pan-indigenist or universalist.

The following list is very much focused on Canada and North America, and it is largely culled from my new book, Maps and Memes 2015, McGill-Queen's University Press:

1. Smith Linda-Tuhiwai  1999  Decolonizing Methodologies  London: Zed

This book inspired the title of my master's thesis (Decolonizing Geographic Information Systems, with Simon Dalby supervising).  It was re-issued a couple of years ago, and remains a corner-stone in indigenous methodologies, with implications for indigenous studies, qualitative research, mapping-as-power, and much more.  The approach uses Foucault and Lefebvre to theorize indigenous approaches to research, with specific focus on the Maori.

2. Harris Cole  2002  Making Native Space  Vancouver: UBC Press

This magnificent tome by the legendary Canadian scholar looks at how indigenous spaces in British Columbia are shaped by surveying and mapping practices.  Derek Gregory's The Colonial Present covers similar epistemological issues for Israel/Palestine.  Both texts are very critical of colonial mapping practices that are both ongoing (think drones) and far from neutral or benevolent.

3. Archibald Jo-Ann  2008  Indigenous Storywork: Educating the Heart, Mind, Body and Spirit  Vancouver: UBC Press

This scholarly work makes use of stories to illustrate methods for producing sensitive research by, with, and for indigenous and First Nations peoples.

4. Kovach Margaret  2009  Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts  Toronto: University of Toronto Press

This innovative work positions itself by weaving together stories of indigenous research.  It also has a wonderful sense of the author's own position in the research process, giving the book a sense of deep integrity

5. Niezen Ronald  2009  The Rediscovered Self: Indigenous Identity and Cultural Justice  Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press

Ron Niezen was at the 2011 Annual Association and Anthropologists meeting in Montreal.  I attended his talk "Routes of Exposure: Public Mediation of Indigenous Rights Claims" and asked a question afterwards.  He pointed me to his chapter on indigenous suicide and epidemiology in Healing Traditions (Kirmayer and Valaskakis, 2009, UBC Press).  This got me started in the direction that would result in the final shape of my book Maps and Memes.  All of this occurred after Niezen had attended my PhD defense at McGill University, with Bjorn Sletto, George Wenzel, and Andre Costopoulos in attendance.  The Rediscovered Self covers a range of Niezen's important thought.

6. Hall Anthony  2011  Earth Into Property: Colonization, Decolonization and Capitalism  Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press

This massive tome is a comprehensive look at colonizing/decolonizing practices in North America.  It is a post-Columbian treasure trove of great writing and insight, and it informed my approach in Maps and Memes.

7. Escobar Arturo  2008  Territories of Difference: Place, Movements, Life, Redes  Durham: Duke University Press

If you have ever wondered how the work of deLanda, deLeuze, and Ingold are really relevant to indigenous peoples, this is the book for you.

8. Johnson Leslie  2010  Trail of Story, Traveller's Path  Edmonton: Athabasca University Press

Leslie Johnson explicitly include GIS in her ethnoecological approach to indigenous knowledge.  What is so refreshing about this book is that it brings home the idea that GIS is not epistemologically opposed to indigenous knowledge.  Core structures and 'primitives' cross-over and pollinate each other in a complex and very sophisticated interplay of ideas and connotations about the place of mapping, practices, and knowledge systems in landscapes and their formation.

9. Lewis Malcolm (ed)  1998  Cartographic Encounters: Perspectives on Native American Mapmaking and Map Use  Chicago: University of Chicago Press

This is the only dedicated cartographic text listed here.  It covers indigenous mapping from an historical/North American perspective and is absolutely essential as both an indigenous-oriented and cartographic text.

10.  Mark David  Turk Andrew  Burenhult Niclas and Stea David  (eds)  2011  Landscape in Language: Transdisciplinary Perspectives  Amsterdam: John Benjamins

The first word that springs to mind here is 'ontologies' for some reason, but that could just be my own background working at McGill with people like Renee Sieber and Christopher Wellen.

I first met David Mark along with Claudio Aporta and others in Renee Sieber's apartment in Montreal.  Mark has a wise and humorous presence, in the most respectful of senses.  He is an intriguing speaker and thinker, and his work resonates with that of Stephen Levinson, and others.  It is very much on the linguistic side of mapping, but not at all inaccessible.

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