Thinking with and alongside Critical Indigenous Scholarship Conference

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Thinking with and alongside Critical Indigenous Scholarship Conference

We explore Indigeneity in all its diversity while celebrating the flourishing of Indigenous scholarship

Part of the Critical Indigenous Studies Network events.

Wednesday 17- Saturday 20 April 2024

Venue will be announced soon

Register here to join the conference in person

Register via Eventbrite soon to join the seminar online

Follow the link to the conference call


The last sixty years have seen unprecedented efforts world-wide to create spaces for the flourishing of scholarly work produced by non-mainstream knowledge-holders, in particular that of Indigenous peoples. University programmes that strengthen and engage Indigenous scholarship are now well-established in North America, Australia, and New-Zealand. New Indigenous studies programmes continue to be created every year on all continents. These programmes chart the persistence, renewal, and recognition of Indigenous peoples in all their plurality, while also generating a wealth of written and audio-visual records, which  illustrate the richness of Indigenous epistemologies, pedagogies, and methodologies. By circulating across varied audiences, these cultural productions disrupt numerous boundaries and divisions, especially those between: academic disciplines; higher and secondary (or even primary) education; science and art; institutionalised and informal sites of knowledge production; or academia and activism. Given that English has become the world’s lingua franca of science, business, and academic research and teaching, it is not surprising that the bulk of this circulation has mainly involved English-speaking circles. However, cultural programmes from globally less prominent regions in South America, Asia, and Africa are becoming equally vibrant.

There is today greater awareness of the fact that Indigenous pedagogies, methodologies, and ways of knowing have persisted in many diverse ways, yet their contributions to science and to academia have yet to be fully appraised. This is particularly true for Indigenous ways of knowing that have flourished in unconventional settings. Moreover, Indigenous scholars, while welcoming this new interest in and respect for Indigenous epistemologies, insist that their cultures need to thrive for such interest not to veer into appropriation. For Indigenous communities conscious of having inherited fragments of smashed knowledge, weaving back what has been torn apart often requires struggle. The Indigenous pedagogical work of educating learners’ minds, hearts, and lives has not been confined to the science of education or to the humanities. Expansive and varied, Indigenous knowledge concerns all aspects of life and science. Yet, little is known about the ways in which Indigenous scholarship has contributed to Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics. At a time when global universities propose to decolonise their research and teaching programmes (see for instance the ‘Diversifying STEM Curriculum Project’ of the University of Oxford available at, documenting Indigenous ways of engaging modern science takes on new dimensions. If the work of exceptional historians such as Joseph Needham has shed light on the multicultural origins of modern science, we have yet to apprehend fully the contributions made by local knowledge-holders and Indigenous scholars to contemporary scientific developments.

The conference aims to explore the creative and critical ways in which Indigenous scholarship has enriched learning, teaching, and becoming with the world. How has Indigenous scholarship combined the project of enlivening the imagination with the mission of encouraging questioning and promoting responsibility? And how has it engaged the liberal education project of cultivating ‘the whole human being for the functions of citizenship and life generally’ (Martha Nussbaum 1997:9, Cultivating Humanity)? In what ways is Indigenous scholarship contributing to the renewal of liberal values?  


The conference programme will be announced soon



Damien Lee (Toronto Metropolitan University)

Working title: Indigenous responses to so-called expert knowledge

It is often assumed that Indigenous peoples’ responses to colonialism are merely reactionary: colonization happened, and Indigenous peoples responded accordingly in novel ways. But this presupposes that Indigenous knowledge systems were devoid of established ways of handling adversity and large-scale change. This panel presupposes the opposite. Our panelists argue that rather than being caught flat footed at the time of site-specific colonization, Indigenous nations extended their existing knowledge systems to guide them through and into the emergence of colonial periods. We see this today in the ways that Indigenous knowledge holders respond to specialized and expert knowledge. Indigenous peoples have shown that problems of scarce data can at times be solved by using methods such as dreaming, ceremony, language, among others. While these can fill in gaps that otherwise might exist in non-Indigenous experts’ knowledge maps, they also often challenge experts’ paradigms altogether. Famous examples include Vine Deloria Jr.’s challenge to the Bering Land Bridge Theory, and Leanne Simpson’s critique of Traditional Ecological Knowledge. In such responses, Indigenous knowledge holders often deal with so-called expert knowledge by assessing it for congruency with ontology; where claims do not fit, Indigenous knowledge experts will offer an alternative theory informed by their respective knowledge systems that, though influenced and informed by the colonial encounter, resonate within their intellectual orders.

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Marc Brightman (University of Bologna) and Vanessa Grotti (University of Bologna)

Towards a methodology for the co-production of transdisciplinary knowledge for the pluriverse

The challenge of restoring diverse and uncertain worlds invites a methodology that cultivates an ethic of care for social and ecological reproduction. Thinking through more-than-human kinship, fertility and reproduction, we invite contributions discussing collaborative methodologies for multispecies cohabitation, justice and care, focusing on relations and procedures rather than visions or destinations, based on innovative combinations of disciplinary approaches which may involve, for example, areas such as ethnography, design and law. We especially encourage the participation of indigenous scientists and scholars. Papers may reflect, for example, on the use of AI, on multi species design, on decolonising and indigenising methodologies, and on thinking about posthuman futures.

Please follow the link to the translations.

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Françoise Barbira Freedman (University of Cambridge) and Elizabeth Rahman (University of Oxford)

Is there a subject for/of learning?: rethinking biosocial education through Indigenous ways of knowing within critical trends in anthropology and science

Is there a subject for/of learning?: rethinking biosocial education through Indigenous ways of knowing within critical trends in anthropology and science In his seminal book « La Pensée Sauvage » (1962) Claude Lévi-Strauss appraised Indigenous ways of knowing in relation to a scientific rationality which is now obsolete but continues to guide an expansive production of ‘ethno-scientific’ research. Local knowledge-holders and Indigenous scholars, however, historically erased in their many contributions to “cosmopolitan” science, are gaining centre stage in presenting epistemologies that invite new interrogations about life, knowing and being, alongside science rather than in a context of being merely validated by science. Within a decolonising perspective, the radical questioning of Indigenous Knowledge (IK) and its production within anthropology is linked to the rethinking of education in a more sustainable and equitable world.

Who/what is the subject of learning? How do educational practices impact health and wellbeing? How is personal health related to others, human and non-human, and to the means and manners of engaging and relating with them?

This panel unites scientists/scholars and practitioners across disciplines to move beyond notions of teaching or educational cultures on the one hand, and “ethno-” or traditional knowledges on the other. The panel invites a critical review of the concepts of ‘intercultural education’ and ‘intercultural healthcare’ as inadequate decolonising tools. Maori scientist Daniel Hikuroa explains how he has replaced “integrate” with “weaving” because “When you weave two strands together, the integrity of the individual components can remain, but you end up with something that’s ultimately stronger than what you started with.(Nature, 11th January 2022).

Along with critical Indigenous thinkers, we explore ways to revalue formal and informal educational practices that simultaneously uphold health and wellbeing within localised relationships.

Rethinking the notion of ‘learning environments’ to include biosociality allows for a critical appraisal of ways of knowing and teaching in dynamic spaces of belonging and relationality for all beings.

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Nehemias Pino and Michael Uzendoski (FLACSO Ecuador)

Textualities and Shamanic Representations

Contemporary, social research has been enriched by a major involvement of indigenous people as authors, co-authors, or researcher assistants. Although this represents a promising inclusive platform for knowledge sharing regarding research in indigenous territories, themes and methodological approaches still reflect an invisible, dissembled reproduction of unlevelled power relations in close interactions and the imperceptible continuity of colonial logics in showing one (non-western) knowledge to validate another one. Among some other factors, the selection, approach, and acceptance of research projects are part of a set of power relations and mutual representations.

By exploring punctual cases in the Amazonian region, this panel aims to explore topics that trigger historical interactions and contemporary representation in academic research in Amazonian contexts. Mainly, this panel proposes to highlight other textualities and how they are entangled in major knowledge-creation scenarios. Textualities, understood as a way of generating knowledge through the representation of time and place, are a vivid manifestation of long-term indigenous resistance to the imposition of one line over another (Ingold, 2015). The recognition of other textualities challenges an imposed representation of interaction among beings in the Amazonian forest, and by that, it exposes the contemporary knowledge articulation between shamans, nonhuman beings, and political historical demands. In that sense, shamanic representations are considered crucial in understanding human and non-human interactions that define their current approach.

In considering other textualities and shamanic knowledge, this panel aspires to discuss how research projects that encompass intercultural interactions, and time and space indigenous representations, contribute to outfacing traditional approaches in social science research.

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Maria Paula Prates (University of Oxford) and Aline Regitano (University of São Paulo/City University of London)

Indigenous midwifery knowledge(s)

In this panel, we propose to address Indigenous midwifery knowledge(s) by inviting scholars from different academic fields as well as non-institutionalised midwives, shamans and anyone interested in joining us to reflect on Indigenous birthing in the contemporary days. The way people give birth and all the relations implicated in that inform crucial values, moralities and modes of existing as part of a collective. Birthing practices and knowledge are a point of encounter between - colonial - biomedical approaches and Indigenous midwifery. But a composition of both knowledge can also be in place to address well-being, life and death. We then ask: 1) How does Indigenous midwifery knowledge transmission operate from an intergenerational approach? 2)How is this entangled with other-than-human relations, land dispossession and climate change? 3) In what specific ways does Indigenous midwifery knowledge address "Anthropocenic landscapes" or contribute to environmental and reproductive justice? and 4) Is it possible to decolonize a practice rooted in colonialism as hospital birth? Indigenous scholars such as Ailton Krenak, David Kopenawa, Francy Baniwa and Sandra Benites, among others, articulate possibilities of postponing the end of the world and of living and dying well in a ruined Earth flesh. These thinkers inspire us to connect midwifery embodied knowledge with that of anti-colonial pedagogies and methodologies to either challenge and/or compose along multicultural modern sciences.

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Malvika Gupta (University of Oxford) and Andrés G. Dinamarca (University of Oxford)

Indigenous political ontologies: autonomy in neoliberal times

More than five hundred years since the colonization of the Americas, Indigenous peoples continue to exercise their rights to live in accordance with their own categories of being, including dimensions such as economy, politics, and spirituality. In this regard, the notions of autonomy and self-determination have gained prominence, as granted by international instruments such as the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) of 2007 and ILO Convention 169, materialized within the legal systems of many states where Indigenous populations reside. We have witnessed globally, from the late twentieth century onwards, political and economic developments such as the rise in far-right factions with unapologetic discourses of genocidal violence, and extractivism advancing through decadent neoliberal capitalist logics. Such tendencies pose threats to indigenous peoples’ hard-fought achievements, compromising their rights, territories, the conditions of life itself. Despite this, many organizations and movements continue to struggle not only to fight for fundamental rights, but also to offer political proposals, drawing on their lifeworlds for societies at large.

This panel aims to bring together proposals by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars (we use ‘scholars’ in its widest sense to include different kinds of knowledge bearers) , political leaders, activists, artists, to discuss questions such as: To what extent do commonly used categories of difference and identity, continue to illuminate the tenor of contemporary struggles? How do historical and social memory and its continuities and reconstructions in the present inform re-emergences and the reframing of political struggle and construction? To what extent do political alliances, sought and built within so-called liberal states, ensure the respect of Indigenous knowledge in their own terms? How best to relate with issues of cultural appropriation and epistemological extractivism in twenty-first century Academies? What is truly at stake when speaking of recognition, redistribution, autonomy, and self-determination?

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Patrick C. Wilson (University of Lethbridge), Panel Organizer

Integrating Indigenous Knowledge and Heritage in Municipal and Postsecondary Contexts

Canada’s 2015 Truth and Reconciliation report tasked diverse organizations and institutions with addressing its 95 Calls to Action, postsecondary institutions, museums, libraries and municipalities among them. Yet, the equally diverse initiatives adopted by these varied organizations raise important questions about the place of Indigenous epistemologies and ontologies in this process. Bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars and policymakers living and working in Lethbridge, Alberta, this panel examines both the opportunities and limitations of Canada’s TRC for advancing the work of reconciliation, indigenization and decolonization in this southern Alberta city, located in traditional Blackfoot territory and home to many other Indigenous peoples. Panelists ask how Indigenous knowledge is understood and integrated into the work of reconciliation and indigenization; if, and to what extent, this work challenges and reshapes the institutions of Western society (such as museums, libraries, municipal governments, and postsecondary institutions) by challenging and transforming those institutional structures and operations; if it is possible for Indigenous epistemologies, methodologies, and ontological perspectives to flourish within those institutional structures, and if so, how? Through an examination of different initiatives and experiences, we explore if and how Indigenous ontological and epistemological perspectives can be integrated into the work of institutions that carry the legacies of colonial structures and accompanying social, economic, and ecological relationships.

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Transforming education: Indigenous practices from the Pacific.

Session organisers: Marcia Leenan-Young – Samoa (Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland); Sereana Naepi – Fiji (Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland); Krushil Watene – Māori, Tonga (Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland); Vaoiva Ponton (Griffith University)

Contact: Marcia Leenen-Young:; Sereana Naepi:; Krushil Watene: ;

Vaoiva (Iva) Ponton:


Abstract: Building on generations of knowledge, scholarship and community practice, this interactive and engaged session will create space and opportunities for participants to share insights from and gain some understanding of Indigenous scholarship and methods from the Pacific. Drawing on language, art forms (storytelling, weaving, carving, music, and dance), as well as local and global socio-political movements, participants will come to understand Pacific education through a diverse and embodied methodology. Weaving together Pacific concepts and practices, participants will come to explore how both could be manifested in education policy. Drawing from Pacific history, philosophy, and critical education scholarship, we bring to life the journeys of Pacific communities and outline the unique methods and perspectives that these communities have generated for local and global transformation.

Note: This session will be ‘wananga/talanoa’ based. This means that participants will engage in discussions and the sharing of ideas and come to understand Pacific education through that process. In such a way, the participants will both experience and enact the purpose and practice of Pacific education together. While detailed knowledge is not required, participants will be asked to register for the session online by answering a short set of questions that will allow us to shape the session in ways that enable sharing and community-building.


Session team:

Marcia Leenen-Young – Samoa (Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland)

Dr Marcia Leenen-Young is Senior Lecturer and historian in Pacific Studies, in the School of Māori Studies and Pacific Studies at The University of Auckland. Of Samoan and Dutch ancestry, she was born and raised in Auckland, with an academic background inclusive of the history of ancient Greece and Rome to the learning and teaching of Pacific students. Her current research interests include Pacific history, especially the era of 'decolonisation' in the Pacific and New Zealand's colonial empire, Pacific pedagogies, Pacific tertiary students, and Pacific research methodologies. She holds multiple teaching awards from the University of Auckland including both the Faculty of Arts' Leadership in Teaching and Learning Award and University of Auckland Early Career Teaching Excellence Award in 2021. Marcia was also a 2022 recipient of a Te Whatu Kairangi national teaching award with a Pacific Endorsement.


Sereana Naepi – Fiji (Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland)

Dr Sereana Naepi is a Pacific scholar and emerging leader in critical university studies. A lecturer in Sociology at the University of Auckland, she produces research that pushes for space in academia for Indigenous voices and knowledge that challenge the way universities and research sectors are constructed. Since obtaining her PhD in Educational Studies from the University of British Columbia in 2018, Sereana has launched herself even deeper into the very institutions she critiques. With an expert, inside view, Sereana focuses on enhancing the Indigenous academy and creating opportunities for Indigenous researchers, whilst challenging the non-Indigenous research and higher education sector to serve Indigenous communities better.


Krushil Watene – Māori, Tonga (Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland)

Dr Krushil Watene is Peter Kraus Associate Professor in Philosophy, at the University of Auckland. Her research addresses fundamental questions in ethics, politics, and Indigenous philosophy. In particular, it engages at the intersections of diverse philosophical traditions, trans-disciplinarity, and the role of local communities for social and global change. Krushil’s primary areas of expertise include mainstream theories of well-being, development, and justice (particularly the capability approach), intergenerational justice, and Māori philosophy.


Vaoiva (Iva) Ponton (Griffith University, Queensland, Australia)

Vaoiva (Iva) Ponton completed her PhD in education at the University of Melbourne. She investigated the motivations of Melbourne-based Samoan students to learn, what concerns them, and impediments to their educational success. She has spent the last 25 years as an educator, and is interested in strategies to enhance student success in the transition from school to the tertiary sector. Iva is passionate about utilising Pacific methodologies when supporting communities to achieve educational and social outcomes with success. Her favourite way to unwind is to walk on the beach.



Follow the link to the conference call

For further information, please contact

Critical Indigenous Studies Network