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Indigenous Resurgence (3 credits)
Prerequisite: See N.B. number (1). Through a selection of case studies from the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand, this course focuses on contemporary Indigenous political struggles, cultural resurgence, race and identity, language revival, urbanization, transnational organization, Indigenous media, and debates concerning tradition.


This course is conceived as an application of political anthropology dealing with Indigenous Peoples and their many confrontations and engagements with “globalization,” both old and new. Focal concepts and issues in this course revolve around resistance, revitalization, recovery, survival, revival, colonial legacies, assimilation, race, and tradition. At different points we also consider the politics of knowledge production and the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and Western anthropologists. The following provides some background to the problems at the core of this course.

“The Problem of Being Indigenous”

Western scholars and policy-makers have predicted the demise of Indigenous cultures and identities, for at least the past two centuries—a gradual vanishing that would either be accomplished by design, by providence, or due to what was believed to be Indigenous Peoples’ inherent racial and cultural inferiority. Difficult to miss are the often repeated exclamations that Indigenous societies are living in danger of extinction, given that they are rooted in socio-cultural and ecological landscapes that have undergone radical transformations, while the power of transnational corporations and states only seems to increase as modernization makes greater inroads. Indigenous societies are often written about in (non)Indigenous media in pathological terms: peoples headed towards self-destruction, plagued by alcoholism, domestic abuse, and disease. Cultural change is also often equated with loss when speaking of Indigenous cultures and identities. The question of who can now proclaim to be a “real Indian” is increasingly becoming voiced and debated, quickly becoming one of the front lines in the struggle to recover Indigenous identities.

An emphasis on “loss” seems to disqualify Indigenous peoples from the future, while denying them agency in the present. Today’s challenges are many of the same that Indigenous peoples have had to confront for the past five centuries, and rather than crumbling in the face of world capitalism, Indigenous cultures today are still many, varied, and in various cases showing new signs of revitalization. These observations are not meant to deny or evade the many tremendous, sometimes genocidal, forces that have been at work against various Indigenous societies, as it is recognition that Indigenous peoples and cultures remain to struggle against those challenges, and reproduce themselves in the very act of confronting those challenges. This is one of the main reasons that this course focuses on the political activism of Indigenous persons and nations in maintaining and recovering their cultures.

“Indigenism” and “resurgence” are related ways of conceptualizing this Indigenous political activism that aims at recovering and defending Indigenous forms of social organization and Indigenous cultural meanings.

“Becoming Indigenous Today”

Indigenous resurgence refers to active processes involving Indigenous Peoples creating their own futures and appropriating global resources for their own culturally specific purposes. Indigenous movements of various kinds are actively engaged in multiple projects of preservation, renewal, and self-transformation, whilst facing an array of new difficulties, both within and from the wider societies in which they are located.

We have seen many new resurgence movements since at least the 1960s, seeking to protect and reaffirm Indigenous cultures and communities, while often confronting nation-states, corporations, or hostile members of the wider societies they inhabit, not to mention dealing with political cleavages internal to Indigenous communities. Indigenous peoples are also increasingly coming to organize themselves on a transnational basis of considerable scope, via such organs as the United Nations, through their own regional and hemispheric confederations, and via Indigenous media.

Some Key Questions

This course will invite students to critically address the following questions:
1)     How is Indigenous resurgence treated in contemporary anthropology?
2)     What are the predominant ideas and manifestations of indigenism?
3)     What are the challenges that confront Indigenous peoples in representing and organizing themselves?


The following three texts are available in the Concordia Bookstore

The first price is for new copies, the second refers to used copies.

Jeffrey Sissons
Referred to as [SISSONS] in the Schedule of Readings

Roger Maaka and Chris Andersen
Referred to as [MAAKA] in the Schedule of Readings

Thomas D. Hall  and James V. Fenelon
Referred to as [HALL] in the Schedule of Readings


The following films have been placed on the Course Reserve (Webster Circulation desk) and/or can be found online. They are listed in the order they are shown in class:


The study of contemporary indigeneity remains vital and relevant to understanding modern settler states such as Canada and Australia, as well as states with Indigenous majorities such as Bolivia and Guatemala. It is hoped that students will leave this course with a new and deeper appreciation of the continued presence and the politics of protest and dissent that are being brought to the fore by many Indigenous communities and movements across North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, and elsewhere.

Students intending to pursue further studies in anthropology, either at the undergraduate or graduate level, will find many of the issues, questions and theories presented in this course to be a very valuable basis on which to build. Students aiming at careers in the media, government, development or education should emerge with greater respect if not sympathy for contemporary Indigenous peoples and their struggles.

While the main theme of this course focuses on what is varyingly called Indigenous revitalization, resistance, resurgence or resilience, a key subtext of this course (usually presented in the lectures) focuses on anthropological knowledge. In particular, we will survey the theories and concepts developed by anthropologists, and some of the questions and debates that arise from their analyses of Indigenous resurgence, either sympathetic or critical.