Being-together-in-place: A Geohumanistic Exploration of Place-based Politics in Postcolonial Settler-states

Collaborative Group

Dr. Jay T. Johnson, Dr. Soren C. Larsen




Place-based struggle is at the heart of Indigenous political and social movements for the revitalization of community, recovery of territory, and negotiation of coexistence. This joint research and publication project focuses on three specific place-based struggles: the Cheslatta Carrier Nation in northern British Columbia, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in New Zealand, and the Wakarusa wetlands in Kansas. The central research question asks how the politics at work in these place-based struggles are creating new possibilities for postcolonial relations of coexistence by transforming the meanings and value of place, the interactions with and stewardship of the landscape, and the social relationships invested in place. This project is informed by the agonistic negotiations, awkward and tenative alliances, and hybridized identitites that constitute contemporary place-based politics involving Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups. It builds upon an existing collaboration that integrates complementary research backgrounds and agendas. As a Native American (Delaware and Cherokee) scholar and geographer, Johnson has committed his career to bringing the ‘deep spatial knowledge’ of Indigenous communities into dialogue with Western geographic traditions. Much of his recent work has been motivated toward articulated the growing sub-field of Indigenous geographies to aid in expanding the scope and diversity of geographic research. Larsen’s work as a non-Native cultural geographer has focused on understanding the struggles of Indigenous communities over land and resources, with an emphasis on understanding the nature of interethnic coalition politics. Together, Johnson and Larsen have focused their research collaboration on building a bridge between Western and Indigenous philosophies and politics of place, including the co-edited volume, A Deeper Sense of Place: Stories and Journeys of Collaborations in Indigenous Research (Oregon State University, 2013). The international perspective of this collaboration provides unique opportunities for comparative research given the experience working at some of the difficult interfaces between Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups in Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. The study will result in a co-authored book that explores how these difficult interfaces, perpetuated by the on-going tensions between Indigenous groups and non-Indigenous communities and governments, are transforming the places and politics of settler states in the twenty-first century. Award period: July 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015