Indigenous Rights and Representations


What role do native identities play in global social and political movements? How do ideas about indigenous peoples shape nationalist sensibilities and international projects? How do notions of cultural authenticity and autonomy figure in the discourse of indigenous rights? Attending to the legacies of colonialism, this course addresses postcolonial representations, performances, and politics of indigeneity by indigenous people themselves, as well as by others, in such places as Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, and the United States. Through a close look at ethnographic texts on this topic, we will investigate how perceptions about and participation by indigenous peoples have figured in environmental activism, transnational trade agreements, educational reform, nationalist campaigns, multiculturalist politics, and international migration. Our course readings will explore how indigeneity is engaged in struggles such as the Zapatista resistance movement in Chiapas, Mexico; the pan-indigenous mobilization against environmental pollution in Ecuador; and efforts toward social justice in the aftermath of ethnic genocide in Guatemala. We will attend to the role of globalization, transnational mobilities, and technological innovation in emergent social movements, as well as new imaginings of indigenous identity. And we will contemplate the implications of indigenous intellectuals’ increasing presence as key actors in both academic and public debate. At the culmination of the course, interested students may opt to participate in the annual meetings of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.