Contested Global Landscapes

A Multidisciplinary Initiative of the Cornell Institute for the Social Sciences

Paul Nadasdy has a joint appointment in Anthropology and American Indian Studies. Among his principal research interests is the negotiation and implementation of indigenous land claim and self-government agreements in the Yukon, Canada, where he has been carrying out ethnographic research for 17 years. These land claim agreements, essentially modern Indian Treaties, may be seen as public sector land deals altering land rights and relations of governance throughout Canada in fundamental ways. As an anthropologist, Nadasdy is interested not only in the political implications of these treaties, but in the cultural processes and understandings involved in their negotiation and implementation—of immediate relevance to the Livelihood sub-theme (#4). Government and aboriginal negotiators have very different conceptions of what “land” even is and how humans should relate to it (the Governance core of #2). Thus, the negotiation and implementation of such agreements, while they can seem to be self-evidently about rights to land and resources, in practice entail struggles that are as much over cultural meanings, symbols, and processes as they are over land and resources. Attention to these meaning are essential for any proper understanding of land rights. Another strand of Nadasdy’s research relevant to the ISS project deals with the politics of indigenous knowledge about and possession of land and animals (#1). The biosphere itself can be a “loser” in land deals.  Euro-American experts increasingly seek to appropriate this newly recognized form of knowledge and integrate it with science for purposes of wildlife management, environmental impact assessment, aboriginal land claim negotiations, and other vital processes of contemporary state formation. As a result, questions of “knowledge” (what counts as knowledge? How is it produced and legitimized?) are central to an understanding of these processes. In his research, Nadasdy examines how state power manifests itself – and, in a very real sense, is created – through the day-to-day bureaucratic practices associated with attempts to harness traditional environmental knowledge for use in contemporary processes of land management and governance.


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