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IGHERT conference: Indigeneities: Territories, Spaces and Conceptual Mappings


13.11.2016 15:00 bis 17.11.2016 18:00 (Europe/Berlin / UTC100)

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The category of indigeneity has been met with rising interest and awareness in the humanities and the social sciences over the last few decades. This has to do with various developments in the rearticulation and reshuffling of fields of study in research and study programs likewise, but also with various political, social and cultural processes. Taken together, these processes have turned the category of indigeneity into a highly disputed object of academic reflection – that is, into a concept – but also into an arena of, and a vehicle in, struggles for political, social and cultural recognition. Moreover, academic agendas cannot be clearly separated from the social, political and cultural realm, as the introduction of ‘Indigenous Studies’ and adjacent fields of study has been announced and received as an intervention into structures of canonicity in the humanities and the social sciences. For instance, Indigenous Studies in part challenges the ways that disciplines like Cultural Anthropology or Comparative Literature have become historically institutionalized, exposing the complicity of these discourses in projects of imperial subjugation of communities and populations. Indigeneity thus inescapably moves between ambitions to be established as a concept meeting academic venerability and invocations of the political, social, cultural and academic context-specificities that have given rise to the prominence of the category in the first place.

This plurality of indigeneities is mostly spelled out in terms of different understandings of specific historical connections between communities and territories, which then often translate into conflicts over rights to territories, spaces, and places. Invariably, thus, indigeneity refers to different spatio-historical configurations not only among former settler colonies turned into nation-states, but also between them and postcolonial states in Africa and Asia, or the supranational framework of the European Union. Given this mingling of two specificities – that of different understandings and valorizations of indigeneity and that of different spatio-historical configurations –, what is at stake for the humanities and social sciences is an exercise that would relate the category of indigeneity, in all its variegated conceptualizations, to the different understandings of territorialities and spatialities that inspire the invocation of that category.

The concluding conference of the IGHERT project “Indigeneity in an Expanded Field” sets out to make a contribution to this conceptual reconstruction of the category of indigeneity. First, the conference aims at mapping a conceptual array of indigeneity and indigeneities through interrelating the category with other concepts and categories, such as imperialism, (post-, de‑)coloniality, autochthony, majority/minority, among others. Second, the conference tries to distill a more precise understanding of the territoriality and spatiality that the category of indigeneity invokes in its different instantiations. The question here is not only what kinds of territoriality and spatiality the use of ‘indigeneity’ conjures up in different historical contexts, but also what territoriality and spatiality might mean in those contexts.

Thus, far from understanding the historicity of indigeneity as a mere legacy, the question is how the spatial register of the concept translates into academic, political, social, and cultural projects that harbor an index of futurity. “Indigeneity in an Expanded Field”, the focal theme of the IGHERT network, thus can be read as pointing toward a translatability between the articulation of indigeneity in sites and settings beyond the historical scenes of emergence of the category on the one hand, and the futurity character of that category as it is activated in political projects.


Keynote speakers: Stephen Slemon and Zac Robinson (both University of Alberta), Julian Reid (University of Lapland) and Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez (University of Giessen)



The conference will take place on Tuesday, November 15 at Schloss Rauischholzhausen. There will be a shuttle bus taking conference participants from Gießen to Rauischholzhausen in the morning and back to Gießen later in the evening. 


As seats on the shuttle bus are limited, please make sure to register with Nico Völker ( by Tuesday, November 1.