Governing Indigeneity Globally: Indigenous Peoples in the United Nations

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles

Abstract

This dissertation studies indigenous peoples in international politics, particularly in the United Nations (UN). Indigenous peoples gained access to the organisation on a permanent basis with the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PF). In addition, their rights are increasingly recognised by the UN member states, the most notable advance in this regard being the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This progress has taken place in a state-based system, many of whose members have colonised indigenous peoples and at least previously been hostile to their demands. Indeed, it is this paradox, and my interest in how the change has come about that provided the impetus for the research project. Despite these advances in indigenous participation and rights, I argue that there is no less power exercised over the peoples than previously. I approach the agency of indigenous peoples from two perspectives, that of norm socialisation and that of Foucault-inspired approaches to power and governmentality. The first perspective views indigenous peoples as norm entrepreneurs. It identifies frames through which the peoples draw attention to their concerns and suggest solutions; that is, the peoples promote the acceptance of new norms by states. The latter perspective informed three analyses. In the first, I investigated the ways in which the subjectification and resistance of indigenous peoples takes place in the small-scale power relations of the PF. The second consisted of a critical examination of the constant entanglement of indigeneity and the environment in international politics and its consequences for indigenous agency. The third examined the ways in which the prevailing and accepted discourse on indigenous rights has neoliberal power effects that go beyond the proclaimed emancipatory aims of the rights. The research material comprises observations made in four PF annual sessions; statements by representatives of indigenous peoples, states and UN agencies; reports on the establishment of the PF; and reports of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The study embraces the methodological guideline of problematisation: text analysis was applied to first identify recurrent and familiar perceptions of indigenous peoples and their agency; this then provided the basis for a critical examination of the power effects associated with the perceptions. The ultimate aim of the analysis was to recover the political in what often seems de-politicised, established and accepted in the context of indigenous peoples and international politics. This research breaks from the more conventional approaches to indigenous peoples and politics that conceive of the international institutional, political and legal advances in indigenous issues as self-evidently desirable and ‘good’. Such approaches fail to recognise the ‘darker’ side of the seemingly benign processes involved: they overlook the many ways in which more hierarchical power relations persist. There is no denying that the ways in which indigenous peoples and indigeneity are dealt with in the UN foster indigeneity and its alleged qualities and recognise the freedoms and rights of the peoples. However, as my critical study illustrates, the growing recognition of indigenous rights and the enhanced participation of indigenous peoples signals a change in the ways in which indigenous peoples are best managed internationally, a development geared to ensuring the efficient functioning of neoliberal governance. Indeed, rather than the peoples being governed any less in international politics today, governance at work has taken on more subtle forms.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Tennberg, Monica, Supervisor
  • Reid, Julian, Supervisor
Place of PublicationRovaniemi
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-952-484-788-9
Electronic ISBNs 978-952-484-789-6
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoEC publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Field of science

  • International political science

Citation for this output