Abstract: Throughout the history of colonialism competing representations of the indigenous have been deployed by colonial powers to their own advantages and ends. Historically the indigenous have been represented as belonging to a past temporality in ways that legitimized colonial rule in the present and future.

Today such representations of the indigenous as primitive and of the past are less prevalent or powerful. Anthropologists are more likely to be read berating the failure of their discipline to have challenged the teleological narratives underpinning the West’s historical sense of superiority. The assumption that indigenous peoples should open themselves to the world is also challenged increasingly by the idea that the West has much to learn from the indigenous. It is the West, it is argued widely today, which must open itself to the Indigenous in ways that not only recognize the rights of the indigenous to life but the superior value of their ways of life.

In this lecture, and by way of contrast, Julian Reid casts a critical gaze upon this dramatic shift in fortunes of indigenous peoples. How, he will ask, is the decolonization of western thought proceeding? What attributes of indigeneity do western theorists most admire? Is this decolonization actually occurring and reflected in the policies of western states, institutions and social practices, or does it reflect a cynical manipulation of indigeneity and indigenous peoples by western powers? 

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