Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Johnson on Indigeneity and Settler States

Miranda Johnson, University of Sydney has published The Land Is Our History: Indigeneity, Law, and the Settler State with Oxford University Press. From the publisher:
The Land Is Our History tells the story of indigenous legal activism at a critical political and cultural juncture in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. In the late 1960s, indigenous activists protested assimilation policies and the usurpation of their lands as a new mining boom took off, radically threatening their collective identities. Often excluded from legal recourse in the past, indigenous leaders took their claims to court with remarkable results. For the first time, their distinctive histories were admitted as evidence of their rights. 
Miranda Johnson examines how indigenous peoples advocated for themselves in courts and commissions of inquiry between the early 1970s to the mid-1990s, chronicling an extraordinary and overlooked history in which virtually disenfranchised peoples forced powerful settler democracies to reckon with their demands. Based on extensive archival research and interviews with leading participants, The Land Is Our History brings to the fore complex and rich discussions among activists, lawyers, anthropologists, judges, and others in the context of legal cases in far-flung communities dealing with rights, history, and identity. The effects of these debates were unexpectedly wide-ranging. By asserting that they were the first peoples of the land, indigenous leaders compelled the powerful settler states that surrounded them to negotiate their rights and status. Fracturing national myths and making new stories of origin necessary, indigenous peoples' claims challenged settler societies to rethink their sense of belonging.
Praise for the book:
"Miranda Johnson's wonderful, engaging, and nuanced new work, The Land Is Our History, crosses disciplinary, theoretical, geographic, and national boundaries. It not only compares the emergence of distinct indigenous rights movements across three Commonwealth settler states but also examines how such movements have transformed the meanings of national history within them. Impressively conceptualized and deeply comparative, this work is an important addition to the growing field of global indigenous history." -Ned Blackhawk 
"An important book, The Land is Our History offers critical insights into the tensions between white settler colonialism and indigenous peoples in the struggle over land. Over the last thirty years, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada shifted from policies of assimilation to recognition of indigenous claims to land. This book traces the structures of power which dispossessed indigenous peoples from their lands at the same time as it recognizes the capacity of indigenous leaders and particular judges and lawyers to change this trajectory. It brilliantly shows the capacity of law to offer, from time to time, power to the powerless, to those who have moral claims but lack economic and political power."-Sally Engle Merry 
"The Land Is Our History is an exemplary illustration of the complex and intertwined histories of indigenous politics and indigeneity in settler colonial societies. Moving beyond a conventional nation-state paradigm, it engages with the re-imagining of nationalist identities since the 1960s within a global context. Underscored is the forging of new legal spaces and opportunities to reframe nationalist myths, while also acknowledging the pitfalls and compromises involved in pursuing indigenous justice within formal western law. This sophistical historical account deserves attention from everyone interested in indigenous peoples' engagement with state law and the ways such engagement informs contemporary politics and cultural relations." -Eve Darian-Smith
More information is available here.