Examining and reflecting upon decolonization and Indigenous solidarity work

Here is a good framework for reflection upon our work towards decolonization and Indigenous solidarity. They are questions put together by Craig Fortier of York University for his research on the subject.

He recently interviewed me (link to 70-minute audio with transcript) based upon these themes/questions, and I asked him if he was good with me publishing the set of questions, as I thought it would be of value to others who are doing this work and would like to take some time to think / have conversations about these kind of things. He said it was ok. So please feel free to use the following in order to reflect upon the work you do individually and collectively.

Note that Craig is doing interviews with people who are active in such movements in a number of Canadian cities, along with in New York, California and Arizona south of the border. He is also planning to hold roundtable discussions as a follow up to the individual sessions, that can be more broadly open and where he can present some of the perspectives people have shared with him in the interviews.

His thesis ‘Unsettling Movements: Decolonizing Non-Indigenous Radical Struggles in Settler Colonial States‘ was published in 2015/16.
He then wrote a book based on this work, “Unsettling the Commons: Social Movements Within, Against, and Beyond Settler Colonialism” published by Arbeiter Ring Press (ARP) and also available via AK Press, and available online at academia.edu or Scribd.

Here are the set of interview questions he began his research with (he later modified them somewhat – read his later article on the research methodologies):

Decolonization & Resurgence:

Anti-Authoritarian Movements and Relationships of Indigenous Solidarity
1.      Our Histories, Backgrounds, Locations in Struggle

To get a sense of who and what has shaped you as someone engaged in processes of decolonization.

Potential Questions:

  1. How do you identify yourself and how do you situate yourself within radical movements?
  2. Can you give me a brief history of how you came to be involved in the radical movements you are currently engaged in?
  3. What ideas, experiences, traditions and/or stories underlie the practices that you engage in as a radical and/or the practices of groups, organizations or collectives that you are a part of?

2. On Decolonization

To get an understanding of how we collectively define and understand decolonization.

Potential Questions:

  1. How do you understand decolonization?  How is decolonization understood within the organization(s)/collective(s) you are a part of?
  2. Why is decolonization important in social movement struggles?
  3. What are the outcomes we are seeking through decolonization?
  4. What line of thinking influences your views on decolonization?
  5. Who or what has influenced your understanding of decolonization?

3.  Ideas + Desires + Principles  = Practices?

The ideas, desires and principles we share with each other or develop collectively in radical spaces influence what we do, how we do it and who we do it with politically/socially.  This section is trying to grapple a bit with these assumptions because I think it is super important for our movements to get a better sense of why we do the things that we do in struggle.

Potential Questions:

  1. Do you have a set of principles that you organize around politically? If so, what are they? Are they personal or collective?
  2. What is power for you? How do you understand power being organized?
  3. What ideas, moral philosophies, systems of beliefs and/or cultural knowledges influence your actions?
  4. What does a just world look like for you? Is it something that you see us achieving or do you envision it more as an ongoing process? Why?
  5. How do you respond to criticisms that your way of thinking might be “utopian” or “ideological”?  Or do you see these as potentially positive characteristics?
  6. What is the relationship between imagination and struggle in your perspective?

4. Historical, Political, Social and Economic Context

To get a sense of how we see local/global histories and other political, social and economic contexts shaping our practices of decolonization and our relationships with indigenous people.

Potential Questions:

  1. Can you comment on past social movement struggles and whether or not you saw them as engaging in the process of decolonization as you understand it today?
  2. How does decolonization take place within anti-racist and anti-oppressive struggles?
  3. What political ideas and frameworks influence your own engagement in the process of decolonization?
  4. What effect does the current historical, political and economic (esp neoliberalism) context have on your practices of decolonization?
  5. What is the role of the state in the process of decolonization?
  6. What do you believe are the relationships between struggles against heteropatriarchy, racism, misogyny, ableism, capitalism and the struggle for decolonization?

5. On Relationships + Contradictions

Time to shift gears a bit here and reflect on the difficult decisions we need to make and the contradictions and mistakes and moments of learning that abound in our words and actions while engaging in processes of decolonization.

Potential Questions:

  1. Can you talk about the relationships that you’ve had that have helped you think about how to engage in a process of decolonization?
  2. How do you understand relationships of settlers, non-indigenous peoples, and Indigenous peoples?
  3. Can you talk about experiences in your organizing where you have felt that your group or you as an individual were acting in a manner that maintained colonial relations?
  4. What types of relationships do you see as being decolonizing?
  5. Can you talk about successes and failures that you’ve been involved with in these same struggles?
  6. Are there any models of organizing society differently that you hold as possible examples?

6. On Resurgence

Potential Questions:

  1. If we talk about pre-figuration – or in other words – the creation of new worlds, new relationships, new ways of being – do you place your engagement in radical practice as being a part of this trajectory? Why or why not?
  2. Others have suggested that instead of building something new, are we instead trying to reassert long-standing ways of engaging in relationships that are outside of the capitalist/patriarchical/heterosexist/ableist relationships we have grown up with? What role do you think this plays in your thinking about your actions as a radical? Are the two mutually exclusive?
  3. The context of resurgence among Indigenous peoples has some parallels and similarities with the ideas, desires and principles being practiced by a number of non-indigenous radicals within settler states.  I guess this question is two fold, how does this particular concept resonate with you?
  4. Can you identify people, texts, writings, books, stories, traditions that have influenced your actions, practices, relationships within our struggles?


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