'Being in Being': Contesting the Ontopolitics of Indigeneity Today

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Chandler, D. ; Reid, J. (2018)

This article critiques the shift towards valorizing indigeneity in western thought and contemporary practice. This shift in approach to indigenous ways of knowing and being, historically derided under conditions of colonialism, is a reflection of the ‘ontological turn’ in anthropology. Rather than indigenous peoples simply having an inferior or different understanding of the world to a modernist one, the ‘ontological turn’ suggests their importance is that they constitute different worlds, and that they ‘world’ in a performatively different way. The radical promise is that a different world already exists in potentia and that access to this alternative world is a question of ontology - of being differently: being in being rather than thinking, acting and ‘worlding’ as if we were transcendent or ‘possessive’ subjects. We argue that ontopolitical arguments for the superiority of indigenous ways of being should not be seen as radical or emancipatory resistances to modernist or colonial epistemological and ontological legacies but instead as a new form of neoliberal governmentality, cynically manipulating critical, postcolonial and ecological sensibilities for its own ends. Rather than ‘provincialising’ dominant western hegemonic practices, discourses of ‘indigeneity’ are functioning to extend them, instituting new forms of governing through calls for adaptation and resilience.
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