STREAM 3a, FINLAND 2023
World Convention in Finland 2023
Injustice in a World of Uncertainty
Stream 3a: Indigenous People and Ethnic Minorities at the Margins of Safety and Security
(A hybrid stream of in-person, online and pre-recorded presentations)
#1: Enact Indigenous Child Welfare Legislation to Ensure the Safety and Well-being of Indigenous
Children and their Families: The Case of the Opitciwan Atikamekw Social Protection Act in
Author(s): Prof. Lisa Ellington, School of Social Work and Criminology and Stacey Awashish Chachai, Atikamekw Student in Social Work and Research Assistant, Université Laval, Canada
Abstract: The overrepresentation of Indigenous youth in provincial youth protection systems in Canada, including in Quebec, is well known. Research has revealed the harmful consequences of the undifferentiated application of child welfare systems to Indigenous peoples, including the loss of cultural identity. Even though Quebec’s Youth Protection Act (YPA) has been amended on several occasions so that any intervention takes into consideration the characteristics of Indigenous communities and the preservation of children’s cultural identity, this legislation remains unsuited to Indigenous realities and continues to have discriminatory effects. In Quebec, the recognition of Indigenous cultural and family practices as well as the right of Indigenous peoples to self-determination have for a long time been the subject of significant controversy and resistance by the legislature.
To counter the over-representation of Indigenous children and to improve their access to justice, federal legislation (An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families) was introduced in 2020, allowing Indigenous communities and organisations to implement their own child welfare law.
It is in this context of legislative changes that the Atikamekw Nation of Opitciwan adopted their own law. After presenting the new principles of the law, we will see how the establishment of an Atikamekw governance fosters the development of original community approaches that ensure not only the safety and development of Indigenous children, but also the preservation of their identity, the decolonisation of social practices and a better access to justice.
#2: Truth & Justice for Indigenous Communities
Author(s): Dr Sara L. Ochs, University of Louisville, USA
Abstract: The past decade has brought global efforts by colonial and settler states to provide healing and justice for past and ongoing harms against indigenous communities. These attempts are most commonly embodied through the creation of truth and reconciliation commissions, which seek to establish a reliable historical record of harm; promote reconciliation; and foster healing by providing harmed parties the opportunities to share their stories and—in some cases—to confront their perpetrators. These truth commissions provide indigenous communities with access to justice, albeit not the form of “traditional justice” that most Western societies recognise. Instead, this form of more comprehensive, transitional justice, aims to help indigenous communities heal and move forward from generations of human rights violations.
My proposed presentation will examine the use of such truth and reconciliation commissions both within Scandinavia (including in Finland, Sweden, and Norway), and globally (such as in the United States, Canada, and Australia). While the presentation will analyse the benefits such truth commissions make bring to indigenous communities, it will also look at some problematic issues in regard to these commissions. For instance, while indigenous communities have played a large role in bringing these truth and reconciliation commissions to fruition, in many countries such as the United States, such commissions are only created once attention and support is brought to the cause by the majority White populations. For example, while Native Americans have been calling for years for the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission to address the U.S. Government’s past use of boarding schools for Native Americans as a means of forced assimilation, such efforts have stalled in Congress, largely because of a lack of national attention brought to the issue. My presentation will explore these issues and posit potential solutions.
This presentation will build on my past research on transitional justice and truth commissions for indigenous communities (as detailed in my attached CV), as well my work as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar at the University of Gothenburg School of Global Studies during the 2022-2023 academic year.
#3: International Security Networks for Ethnic and Indigenous Minorities: Stagnation of Tibetan Nationalist Struggles
Author(s): Hari Har Jnawali, Waterloo University, Canada
Abstract: This paper examines whether the international protection of ethnic minorities is sufficient to address the Tibetans’ demand for the recognition of their self-determination through the concession of genuine autonomy in the ancestral region. Since 1950, the Tibetans have been fighting against the Chinese invasion of their cultures, traditions, languages, natural resources, and ways of life. After the failed nationalist uprising of 1951, around 80 thousand Tibetans left Tibet and have since been taking refuge in India; they do not have access to their national judicial and legislative security networks and are left to defend themselves. The Chinese government has been urging them to return to Tibet and utilise the existing legislative and judicial measures to their advantage.
However, the Tibetans are not convinced. Therefore, they are demanding autonomy to self-determine their political, social, cultural, and cultural futures, but the Chinese government has rejected their demand. The Tibetans have sought international support to their ethnonationalist claims. In response, the United Nations (UN) has stepped in. This global governance organisation has developed human rights treaties and norms that support the people’s self-determination and autonomy. It has also passed resolutions that specifically support the Tibetans’ self-determination, but the Tibetans’ situation has not improved. Against this background, this paper examines the following question: Why has the UN support not become effective in the Tibetans’ autonomy struggles? It assumes that the UN initiatives, in contrast with their intention, are not providing forum to the Tibetans to articulate their concerns but to Chinese government to justify its position on Tibet. The Chinese government has consistently utilised the UN forum to establish that the Tibetans’ grievances are its domestic concerns and accordingly warn the international community not to interfere in the domestic concern. In other words, it is establishing that human rights protection/ violation is its domestic concern, and the foreigners are not to violate the states’ prerogative. The UN has not built a proper response to the Chinese position; therefore, its support has not been effective in resolving the Tibetans’ grievances.
#4: Mayan Mugshots: An Indigenous Critique of Mexico’s Failed War on Drugs
Author(s): Dr Brandon Hunter-Pazzara, Anthropology Department, Georgetown University, USA
Abstract: In an effort to convince the public of its progress against the commercial drug trade in Mexico's "Maya Riviera," police departments in the region have increased the frequency with which they post photos of arrested drug dealers and smugglers. Not only do departments share these photos with news outlets, they also post them to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. The photos evidence the racialised nature of Mexico's war on drugs and reflect the fact that low level positions in drug organisations are occupied by indigenous men and women hailing from various impoverished Mayan communities across Southern Mexico. While the photos are posted with the intention of shaming those in the drug trade and reaffirming the power of law enforcement, I draw from fieldwork with working-class indigenous residents in the town of Playa del Carmen, MX to highlight the alternative ways these images are read and understood. I specifically focus on how various interlocutors contest the mugshots and view them as evidence of the racialised nature of policing in the context of the drug war. From their perspective, Mexico's drug war has been a failure, both generating instability in the rural communities they come from, and more provocatively, of undermining a commercial enterprise that has fostered economic growth in Mexico's coastal tourism hubs. Rather than a world without the drug trade, my interlocutors imagine a world where Mayans might reap the economic benefits of the drug trade rather than be saddled with its burdens.
#5: Periurban Discrimination: Katchipattu and its Lost Dalits in the Development Saga
Author(s): Baiju Thankachan, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India
Abstract: "We were happy when these buildings came up, and now it is our nightmare; we cannot even breathe properly," said the elderly man in Katchipattu village, talking about the developments in Sriperumbudur Periurban region. Periurban, the new urban around the globe, and its developments have mainly been in discussions in planning and academia centreing around its material aspect. However, the social aspect of life in Periurban has largely been neglected in mainstream discussions. Periurban Sriperumbudur grew exponentially in two decades, becoming a satellite town nicknamed Detroit of India. Nevertheless, the challenging life of Dalit villages and their concerns about survival is little talked about. The many Periurban developmental issues affecting the local people are far more of a concern when the community is underprivileged and faces social, economic, and livelihood discrimination. The Dalit Periurban community in Sriperumbudur town in Tamil Nadu has been fighting for survival in a different form in the last two decades amidst infrastructural developments. The age-old caste atrocity and discrimination resulting from it are added now with tags such as 'criminal,' 'poramboke' (outsider), and they are denied decent jobs, yet people in 'power' use them for menial jobs and work with illegal nature. Katchipattu, the clustered village, is locked up from every side by infrastructural development, making their mobility and conditions a living hell. No one in authority heeds their fundamental concerns, yet they are used as pawns by the power elites. Thus, they live an everyday life of precarity and risk, making precarity a lifestyle, having fallen prey to a vicious cycle of risk-taking.
#6: Lateral Surveillance and Digital Crime Tracking in New York City
Author(s): Alice Riddell, Department of Anthropology, University College London, London, England
Abstract: Citizen is a live crime and safety tracking app in New York City that uses AI to monitor police scanners for incidences that are relevant to “public safety”, whilst also utilising user-recorded footage, as users near a crime, fire or accident, are encouraged to ‘go live’ and film unfolding events. Users comment additional information and post expressive emojis as incidences unravel. In sharing information across a digital network, Citizen functions as both a form of social media and a peer-to-peer surveillance app. Through this lens, my ethnographic research investigates the impact of the digitisation of crime and how this affects community relationships in increasingly gentrified neighbourhoods in Brooklyn.
Citizen app is a personalised and privatised digital security practice and apparatus. It functions as a form of lateral community surveillance and users have reported a sense of anxiety and unsafety in their own neighbourhoods. In emphasising one’s potential insecurity, Citizen stokes an atmosphere of fear and negative imaginaries of the other. The app asks its users to make time sensitive moral judgements about who does and doesn’t belong, and there is the danger that these judgements can result in racial profiling. My research raises the following questions: When surveillance is lateral and often racialised, who does Citizen benefit and who does it hinder? What are the implications of Citizen app in gentrifying neighbourhoods, which are already subjected to increased policing? Is Citizen an apparatus for social exclusion, when utilized as a means to canvass potential neighbourhoods for crime? And when neighbourhoods and community spaces are imbued with insecurity, fear and suspicion, what are the consequences of community reported crimes for vulnerable people and people of colour? My presentation will grapple with these questions and explore the ways in which personalised digital security works to create and sustain insecurity, especially for vulnerable people and marginalised communities.
#7: Chilean Necropolitics. Living Under Threat in Mapuche Territory
Author(s): Céline Heini (university of applied sciences Western Switzerland), Anahy Gajardo (university of Neuchatel) and Anne Lavanchy (university of applied sciences Western Switzerland), Switzerland
Abstract: In September 2022, the majority of the Chilean citizens chose to reject the proposal of a new Constitution. Aiming to replace the one adopted under General Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1989) and still in force, this project of new constitution affirmed the plurinationality of the state and gave extended recognition in various areas to indigenous peoples. The refusal rate was particularly high in the Southern regions, historically home of the Mapuche, the most numerous indigenous people of Chile, including amongst the Mapuche themselves. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the Arauko province between August and October 22, our communication takes this apparently surprising “rechazo” (refusal) as departure point to analyse the Chilean politics towards indigenous peoples. We propose to mobilise the concept of Necropolitics to make sense of the daily constraints affecting Mapuche communities of the Arauko province. We will show how these politics of systematic repression and state violence are deployed under the narratives of safety and security of the whole population, with the criminalisation of Mapuche demands. Therefore, many Mapuche who are not directly involved into action of land recuperation see themselves caught in a mousetrap, treated as “terrorists” if they dare to present claims, and confronted to enduring and deep-rooted structural racism.
#8: Dehumanising Minorities: The Political Economy of Hate Mongering in India
Author(s): Dr Rao Badrinath, Associate Professor, Sociology and Asian Studies, Kettering University, Flint, USA
Abstract: The degeneration of public discourse is one of the most alarming trends in Indian politics. Jarring, crude, and unedifying, hate speech, incitement to violence, and verbal intimidation have descended to depths that cast serious doubts about the collective ability of Indians to be civil and courteous in our public discourse. Though most parties resort to rancorous rhetoric, the main culprits in the present instance are the Hindu nationalist BJP and its allies. Their targets are predictable: minorities, women, and dissenters. Barring the occasional slap on the wrist, virtually no one suffers negative consequences. Hate mongering is a lucrative, low risk-high reward venture. It catapults otherwise obscure characters to the forefront of media publicity and boosts floundering careers.
Three developments are noteworthy. First, even with the expansion of the political arena and the forcible entry of hitherto excluded groups, Indian democracy is ambivalent about social inclusion. Its unwillingness to accommodate new faces and accord them dignity has partly precipitated the demise of decency in public life. Restless entrants in politics feel stymied. Barring some, the vast majority of new players stagnate on the periphery seething in resentment. Parties have dodged eroding legitimacy and won elections by chiefly relying on three types of members: dynasts, film stars, and money bags. With their proven popularity, these luminaries leverage popular goodwill and win elections. Thus, ordinary, grassroots party workers who slog hard to build the party find themselves side-lined by people who have earned their spurs in other fields or inherited a legacy. Frustrated, they are desperate to stand out and be noticed by party leaders. For some, belittling speech is an easy option. In a winner-take-all system, the resulting infamy is more acceptable than insignificance. Second, a significant impetus for offensive speech comes from party bosses who tacitly encourage such behaviour and reward habitual offenders. Third, inflammatory utterances are priceless in deflecting popular attention from predatory economic policies. With the relentless march of neoliberalism, politics is under the vice-like grip of big business. Economic policies are pre-determined, and ‘accumulation through dispossession’ is non-negotiable. Such is the might of transnational capital that it has eviscerated politics of its content globally. As powerful interests denude politics of its mandate, there is little room for genuine debate and discussions. In this scenario, the ordinary party worker has few alternatives to rise through the ranks. This explains the attraction of diversionary tactics like rabble-rousing and demonizing critics and minorities.
Hate mongering as a mode of politics flourishes because there is a high degree of popular tolerance for such conduct. The lethal combination of low levels of human development, a widely shared sense of victimhood, and an anaemic education system that does not emphasize democratic values vitiates social relations. Reversing this trend calls for enlightened statesmanship. It requires transcending petty electoral calculations, fostering human capabilities, and reinstating constitutionally guaranteed human dignity. As long as ‘Bonsai people’ are at the helm, these changes will remain a pipe dream.