09 Jan Understanding Indigenous Nationalism

Indigenous peoples around the world are increasingly adopting the language of nationalism to describe their claims to self-determination. While this nationalist discourse has attracted attention from theorists of multicultural or multinational diversity, relatively few works focus intensively on the question of indigenous nationalism, and fewer yet investigate the relationship between the democratic dimensions of indigenous nationalism and the distinctive challenges associated with its implementation in concrete cases and contexts. This chapter attempts to fill some of these gaps in our understanding of indigenous nationalism. First, it develops a theoretical understanding of indigenous nationalism in terms of three interrelated dimensions of democratic self-determination: external democracy, internal democracy, and shared-ruled democracy. Second, it responds to some common criticisms of indigenous nationalism by making a clearer distinction between its normative and empirical-institutional dimensions. Third, it exploring the implications of this normative framework in concrete political terms by examining what kinds of indigenous communities will exercise the right to self-determination, and what sorts of institutional possibilities are possible and/or already exist in practice. The discussion draws on examples from Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

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(2004) “Understanding Indigenous Nationalism.” In The Fate of the Nation-State, (ed.) Michel Seymour. (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press), 271-94.