The rise of the ‘Indigenous Relations Specialists: Tiffany M. Campbell, “The ties that bind”: Indigenous Relations Specialists and the Temporal Politics of Reconciliation, MA dissertation, University of Alberta, 2019


Abstract: Following the call, made by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015), for government to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation, those invested in Alberta’s consultation with Indigenous peoples have wondered what this would mean for the future relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. This thesis draws on critical theory scholarship to investigate how the politics of reconciliation are entangled with the liberal politics of recognition and settler colonialism in Canada. I employ techniques of discourse analysis in order to consider a set of interviews conducted with ‘Indigenous Relations Specialists’—a group of Government of Alberta colleagues working in the province’s offices for Aboriginal Consultation on land and natural resource management—to develop a better understanding of reconciliation as an emerging area of both national memory and local practice. In an effort to mediate the relationship between larger structures and systems with real instances of social interaction, I implement a ‘communities of practice’ approach (as first developed by Lave and Wenger) to study settler discourse. I consider how the community of practice develops a shared repertoire—a crystallization of specialized knowledge and shared experiences—through which its members reflect on and organize their practice in a process of meaning-making that is continually negotiated and renegotiated. I find that the interpretive repertoires employed by this group of Indigenous Relations Specialist colleagues often rely on temporally-ordered accounts, which are used to organize responsibilities for colonialism, as well as the distribution of benefits and harms in the area of Aboriginal consultation more specifically. I advocate a feminist research ethic (following especially Haraway, Shotwell, and TallBear, and critique developed by Simpson) that works with such negotiation in more nuanced and deeply implicated relations to the tradition of knowledge that we critique— engaging in readings that amplify (by simultaneously acknowledging and unsettling) accounts of the ways in which we are involved in one another’s lives. This research represents the beginnings of my exploration into what it means to be in relation with the subject of one’s critique, toward the development of a conception of situatedness that recognizes not only who or what we claim to know, but also who and what claims us.

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