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Annual Meeting
Association of American Geographers,
New Orleans, Louisiana, April 10-14, 2018


Settler-Colonial Governance & The Ordering of Indigenous Lands

Organisers: Janice Barry, University of Manitoba & Libby Porter, RMIT University

Settler colonialism is understood as a historically, politically and economically distinct relation of power in which generations of settlers not only came to stay on Indigenous lands, but also sought to replace Indigenous ways of knowing and governing those lands with a new colonial order (Coulthard, 2014; Wolfe, 2006). This colonial ordering of space is achieved through a variety of technologies of power, including the establishment of property regimes, land use regulations, and jurisdictional arrangements. While these technologies are very explicitly geographical, they also link to other social science disciplines and professions including law, public policy and administration, urban and regional planning – to name just a few. This session invites papers that interrogate how the historical and contemporary practices of settler-colonial governance dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands and political authorities. The papers should express clear interests in the ways in which settler-colonial geographies are produced and reproduced through non-Indigenous institutions, laws, policies and procedures. It particularly invites papers that appropriately centre Indigenous experiences, theories, knowledges and critiques across a range of geographic settings and contexts (urban, non-urban, etc). It also welcomes perspectives from a wide range of settler-colonial contexts, including less studied areas such as Africa, South America and the Middle East.

Please email paper titles and 250-word abstracts to Janice Barry ( and Libby Porter ( by October 25, 2017. Potential panelists should also submit their abstracts directly to AAG by October 25, 2017. Please note that papers that do not sufficiently address the scope of the call may need to go to the pool of ‘unsessioned papers’ where they would be put into appropriate sessions by the conference organizers.

Key Sources:

  • Coulthard GS (2014) Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition. University of Minnesota Press.
  • Wolfe P (2006) Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native. Journal of Genocide Research 8(4): 387–409.


Geographies of Settler Colonialism

Vanessa Sloan Morgan (University of Northern British Columbia) and Paul Sylvestre (Queen’s University at Kingston)

At multiple points in our respective tenures as geographers we’ve both been asked some variation of the question: “Who do you read in geography for critiques of settler colonialism?” With a few notable exceptions (e.g., Barker, 2012; Pasternak, 2015; Pasternak & Dafnos, 2017; Tomiak, 2017) the invariably awkward answer is: “I don’t really read in geography for those questions.” Given that settler colonialism is a territorial project fundamentally concerned with dispossessing people of their lands and ways of life, and accumulating lands for the purpose of its conscription into the global circuity of Capital, the lack of sustained engagement in geography should be perplexing. Yet, if we are to consider Lorenzo Verancini’s (2017) observation that settler colonial projects are “characterized by a persistent drive to ultimately supersede the conditions of [their] operation,” (p. 3) that settler colonizers “cover [their] tracks,” and “operate toward their own self-suppression,” (p. 3) it becomes apparent that this disciplinary aphasia, far from being a mere oversight, is a constitutive element of the social relations that animate and structure the ongoing processes of settler colonialism.

Although the blind spots of geography are not new (e.g., Kobayashi, 1994, 2014; Peake & Sheppard, 2014), calls to encompass how different forms of whiteness and colonialism entangle themselves with space have arguably been renewed (e.g., Bonds & Inwood, 2016; de Leeuw et al., 2017; Hunt, 2013; Noxolo, 2017; Pulido, 2015). Settler Colonial Studies has emerged as a way to engage with ongoing processes, structural apparatuses, and socio-political relations that result from, and are productive of, imperialism and colonialism. In places such as Turtle Island/North America (e.g., Barker, 2012; Cowen & Lewis, 2016; Sloan Morgan, 2017), New Zealand/Aotearoa (Larner, 1995), Australia (Howitt & Suchet-Pearson, 2006), and Israel and Palestine (Joronen, 2017), geographers are thinking spatially about the e/affects of settler colonialism. At the same time however, we geographers oftentimes overlook the complexity of relations to settler colonial contexts, casting our gaze in a manner that simplifies or takes for granted the settler and the colonial. Not attending to the myriad ways that settlement, as a naturalized political horizon, conditions our socio-spatial imaginaries limits the political potential of our critical geographic interventions. For instance, Dene political theorist, Glen Coulthard (2013) highlights the ubiquitous disavowal of Indigenous political sovereignties implicit in the conceptual and political frames employed by critical urban scholars who study settler cities. Coulthard identifies the (re)enactment of the racist colonial fiction of terra nullius in urban space as urbs nullius, highlighting a concern that critical anti-gentrification and right to the city scholarship. A number of Indigenous and settler scholars have levelled similar critiques at seemingly radical social movements, such as the Occupy movement in settler cities (e.g., Barker, 2015; Grande, 2013; Tuck and Yang, 2012).

In this session, we encourage empirical, experiential, praxis, and/or theoretically situated perspectives from geographers and those working in and from settler colonial contexts on the spatial in the settler colonial, and vice versa. We wish to consider how a more sustained and meaningful engagement between Settler Colonial Studies and Geography can or should be critically productive for both. Questions to consider could include:

  • What could a geography of settler colonialism entail to ensure prolonged, responsive, and requested results can be utilized by and for Indigenous sovereignties?
  • How can insights and theories from Critical Race Studies scholars and anti-racist geographies bear on settler colonialism, its manifestations, and vice versa?
  • How does settler colonialism reproduce its likeness in structural and processually specific manifestations (e.g., urban spaces, capital, property, etc.)?
  • How can and should an attention to settler colonial relations alter the way geographers think about the production of urban space?
  • What can geographical understanding of space and spatiality lend to settler colonial studies to more critically engage its e/affects?
  • In interrogating ongoing settler colonial processes and structures, or in using settler colonialism as an analytic, how must we think of time differently in order to account for the multiply tenses through which settler colonialism operates?
  • What can queering settler spaces look like, and how can these spatialities be enacted in interpersonal and everyday relations?

We encourage anyone interested in presenting in this session to contact the conveners, Paul Sylvestre ( and Vanessa Sloan Morgan (, with any questions or comments about the session, or how we are approaching the topic.

Please send us your abstracts of 250 words by October 20th, 2017.



Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples

Co-sponsored by the Indigenous Peoples Specialty Group, the Human Dimensions of Global Change Specialty Group, and the Climate Specialty Group

Climate change and the associated shifting patterns of weather and plant and animal life have enormous impact on Indigenous peoples.  The issues surrounding climate change and Indigenous peoples vary, but include water availability, glacial retreat, agricultural patterns, shifting plant populations, and changes in ecological cycles. These will have significant impacts on Indigenous populations.  Climate change poses problems of both environmental justice and Human Rights for Indigenous peoples, and Indigenous peoples have been responding with strategies for adaptation and mitigation.

This session or series of sessions invites scholars working on climate change with Indigenous peoples to present papers on their work.  Papers on any aspect of this topic will be welcome, as we look to see the range of scholarship being done in this important area.  Topics may include but are not limited to

  • opposition to fossil fuel extractions 
  • responses to climate change in Indigenous communities: adaptation and mitigation
  • issues on planning and policies for social and environmental justice 
  • community planning for climate change impacts 
  • research partnerships with Indigenous communities, Federal agencies, and others
  • alternative energy development on Indigenous lands 
  • REDD and other climate policies and their impacts on Indigenous peoples 
  • impacts of and adaptations to sea level rise 
  • ways in which Indigenous communities interface with animal nations 
  • impacts regarding flora and biodiversity 
  • the intersection of scientific, historical, and Indigenous knowledges about the impacts of climate change
  • Indigenous epistemology regarding weather and climate 

Interested participants should please contact Doug Herman, Smithsonian Institution: hermand@si.ed.

The deadline for submitting abstracts and registering to attend the 2015 AAG Annual Meeting is October 25, 2017Register to Attend or Read the Call for Papers.


Disrupting the Frontier/Homeland Binary: Practices of Local-Scale and Indigenous Development

Organizers: Mia Bennett (UCLA/University of Vienna) and Ingrid A. Medby (Oxford Brookes University)

Sponsors: Political Geography, Development Geographies, Indigenous Peoples, and Polar Geography Specialty Groups

In remote, ecologically vulnerable, and/or sparsely populated regions such as the Arctic and the Amazon, global capital and its associated mega-projects are often seen as synonymous with unsustainable, unrelenting growth. In contrast, local initiatives, particularly if directed by Indigenous populations, are often viewed as preferable: "If sustainable development is ever going to be achieved, it needs to begin with citizens at the grassroots level, whereby local success can be translated into national achievements" (Roseland 2012, xviii).

However, an uncritical preference for locally scaled policies and actions may at times be misguided, or at least in need of added nuance. A good deal of geographers and political ecologists assume that while political and economic processes take place at national and global scales, cultural and ecological processes happen at the local scale (Brown and Purcell, 2005). Yet, political and economic processes can and do arise from the local scale too, often running up against global-scale movements that seek, for instance, to conserve the environment. The Arctic offers one example, where entrepreneurial Indigenous groups, like Arctic Slope Regional Corporation in Alaska, champion offshore oil and gas, while Greenpeace continues its campaign to "Save the Arctic." Local actors - many of them Indigenous - thus often seek the right to development (Gibbs, 2005; Salomon and Sengupta, 2003), at odds with outsiders' expectations of specific, often romanticized, practices and performativities of both "Indigeneity" and local-scale identities. When Indigenous and local actors are in the race for global capital to fund industrial development on their land, this complicates any supposed binary between homeland and frontier, between passive dwelling and active usage. In a time when decolonizing geographical knowledges has been high on the agenda, questioning assumptions about so-called "rootedness" and "stewardship", and about what kind of "development" is considered legitimate in accordance with assumed role-enactments, is needed.

This session seeks to explore Indigeneity in the 21st century, especially in so-called "frontier" regions: How it is expected to be performed, how it actually plays out in practice, and not least, how expectations are challenged and disrupted. Recognizing that there is no single Indigenous trajectory, let alone a homogenous "Fourth World," we seek to stimulate cross-regional dialogues that bring different experiences to bear on one another.

While far from an exhaustive list, possible topics include:

  • Geographies of Indigeneity
  • Expectations and performances of Indigeneity
  • Tribal capitalism, Indigenous enterprise development, and Indigenous political economies
  • Practices and policies of Indigenous corporations
  • Consequences of land claims agreements on development
  • Indigenous resistance to and/or accommodation of the state and capital
  • Debates over the "right to development" in regions often perceived as "frontiers"
  • Traditional Ecological Knowledges (TEK), and particularly how they might be employed in and/or deployed against development

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words, along with your institutional affiliation and contact details, to Mia Bennett ( and Ingrid A. Medby ( by October 23, 2017. We will notify accepted applicants by October 24, 2017. Successful participants will need to pay the registration fee and submit their abstracts online at the AAG website before October 25, 2017.


  • Brown, J. C., & Purcell, M. (2005). There's nothing inherent about scale: political ecology, the local trap, and the politics of development in the Brazilian Amazon. Geoforum36(5), 607-624.
  • Gibbs, M. (2005). The right to development and indigenous peoples: Lessons from New Zealand. World Development33(8), 1365-1378.
  • Roseland, M. (2012). Toward sustainable communities: Solutions for citizens and their governments (Vol. 6). Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.
  • Salomon, M. E., & Sengupta, A. (2003). The right to development: Obligations of states and the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples. London: Minority Rights Group International.


 Indigenous gendered studies of the global changes in the Arctic: experiences, challenges, and prospects for research

Organizer: Vera Kuklina, Vera Solovyeva

Discussant: Jessica K. Graybill

Recent changes in geopolitical configurations; growing mobilities of people, goods, ideas; and the reality of climate change have variety of impacts on people and places. Indigenous groups are recognized as especially vulnerable (International Labor Organization, 2016) while simultaneously having expert knowledge on how environments and communities are impacted by climate changes (Krupnik & Jolly, 2002; Louis, 2007; Cruikshank, 2005; Comberti, 2016; Johnson, 2016).  This dichotomy is especially evident in the Arctic and subarctic regions affected by extractive and infrastructural development, urbanization, environmental degradation, ethnic conflicts, cultural and spiritual heritage losses, broken relations between generations, and reduced "fate control", among other things. As noted by Shaw et al., 2006 and others, there is need for better engagement by geographers with the experiences of indigeneity to understand the experiences of indigenous and non-indigenous groups in the North.
The levels of vulnerability and resilience vary within indigenous groups of different regions, age, gender, class, and sexuality. The gendered aspect of global change in the North today has been noted in the "gender shift" (in Russia; Povoroznyuk et al., 2016), "female flight" (Hamilton & Seyfrit, 1994; Rasmussen, 2009), gendered employment mobilities (Walsh, Valestrand, Gerrard, & Aure, 2013), masculinization of the traditional activities (Rasmussen, 2009; Ulturgasheva, 2012), and related to processes of urbanization (Peters, 2006).  

There are specific issues that make the focus of indigenous gendered studies especially relevant. First, in many indigenous communities, women take leading roles (Bodenhorn, 1990; Vinokurova et al., 2004; Larsen & Fondahl, 2015). Second, indigenous communities are often characterized by return migration (Huskey et al, 2004), that make their presence in the Arctic more likely permanent than those existing settler communities. Finally, with increased infrastructural development and communication technologies, better links with remote communities can make the last ones more vocal and visible in the urban and metropolitan centers of decision-making. To expand our awareness of emerging issues of indigenous communities and increase their resilience, we need more collaborative efforts as in academia and with remote communities.
We seek theoretically grounded and practically oriented discussion on how indigenous gendered studies could contribute and shape the academic understanding of the global changes in the North. Papers may address, but are not limited to, the following:

  • How do gendered differences among indigenous people affect our spatial perception, conceptualization, and action in the context of global changes?
  • What are the best ways of integrating indigenous and gender-specific knowledge with Western scientific methods?  
  • How can indigenous researchers enhance dialogue among different members of local indigenous communities and global decision-makers to critically address the roles/rights ascribed for indigenous peopled that are gendered, age-ified, and regionalized?
  • How can critical, feminist, and indigenous methodologies contribute to indigenous gendered studies?

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to Vera Kuklina ( and Vera Solovyeva ( October 20th. Accepted applicants will be notified by October 25th.


  • Technical Note. Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change: From Victims to Change Agents through Decent Work
  • Bodenhorn, B. 1990. "„I‟m Not the Great Hunter, My Wife Is‟: Inupiat and Anthropological Models of Gender." Etudes/Inuit/Studies 14(1-2):55-74. 
  • Cruikshank, J. (2005). Do glaciers listen?: local knowledge, colonial encounters, and social imagination. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  • Huskey, L., Berman, M., & Hill, A. (2004). Leaving home, returning home: Migration as a labor market choice for Alaska Natives. The Annals of Regional Science (38), 75-92.
  • Louis, R.P. (2007). Can you hear us now? Voices from the margin: using Indigenous methodologies in geographic research, Geographical research 45 (2): 130-139.
  • Comberti, C., Thornton, T. and Korodimou, M. (2016) Addressing Indigenous Peoples' Marginalisation at International Climate Negotiations: Adaptation and resilience at the margins.
  • Johnson, J.T., Howitt, R., Cajete, G., Berkes F., Louis R.P., and Kliskey, A. (2016). Weaving Indigenous and Sustainability Sciences to Diversify our Methods. Sustainability Science.
  • Coombes, B., Johnson, J.T., Howitt, R. (2014). Indigenous Geographies III: Methodological innovation and the unsettling of participatory research. Progress in Human Geography 38 (6): 845-854.
  • Hamilton, L.C., and Seyfrit, C.L. 1994.  Female flight? Gender balance and outmigration by Native Alaskan villagers. Arctic Medical Research 53(Supplement 2):189 – 193.
  • Krupnik, Igor, and Jolly, Dyanna (eds.). 2002. The Earth is Faster Now: Indigenous Observations of Arctic Environmental Change. Fairbanks, Alaska: Arctic Research Consortium of the United States
  • Fondahl, G.  (1998). Gaining ground?: Evenkis, land and reform in southeastern Siberia.
  • Shaw, W.S., Herman, R.D.K. and Dobbs, G.R., 2006: Encountering Indigeneity: re-imagining and decolonizing geography. Geografiska Annaler, Series B: Human Geography 88, 267–276.
  • Peters, E.J. (2006). "[W]e do not lose our treaty rights outside the... reserve": challenging the scales of social service provision for First Nations women in Canadian cities. GeoJournal 65: 315-327.
  • Rasmussen R.O. 2009. Gender and Generation: Perspectives on Ongoing Social and Environmental Changes In The Arctic.: Signs: Journal Of Women In Culture And Society 34(3): 524-532.
  • Vinokurova, L.I., A.G. Popova, S.I. Boiakova, and E.T. Miarikianova. 2004. Zhenshchina Severa: Poisk novoi sotsial'noi identichnosti [Women of the North: The Quest for a New Social Identity]. Novosibirsk: Nauka. 
  • Whyte, Kyle and Cuomo, Chris J., Ethics of Caring in Environmental Ethics: Indigenous and Feminist Philosophies (April 25, 2016). The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics. Edited by Stephen M Gardiner and Allen Thompson, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:
  • Larsen, J., & Fondahl, G. (2015). Arctic Human Development Report: Regional Processes and Global Linkages. Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers.
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