Feminist and Indigenous Contributions: What Does It Mean to be Human?

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 16:39
Oral Presentation
Angela MILES, OISE, University of Toronto, Canada
Feminisms vary as do Indigenous activist approaches. This paper focuses on very broadly defined ‘Integrative feminist’ and ‘matriarchal Indigenous’ tendencies in these movements in North America.

Elsewhere, I have identified an ‘integrative feminist’ tendency made up of very varied feminisms and womanisms that: a) insist on women’s equality and common humanity (with men) while affirming female-associated life centred values (community, sharing, nurture, and cooperation) as defining social priorities; b) integrate resistance to all dominations (patriarchal, colonial and capitalist) as essential aspects of feminist politics; c) see commonality and diversity (among women) not as static opposites, but as enriching tensions in a dialectic of change and possibility; d) are holistic in refusing the fragmentations of industrial patriarchal society.

What I refer to here as ‘matriarchal Indigenous politics’ is Indigenous activism (whether self-defined as feminist or not) grounded in defining egalitarian, holistic, relational, matriarchal values, worldview and vision, which draws also on critical analysis to understand and take on the struggles Indigenous communities face today in brutal ways, in the wider world and within Indigenous communities.

This paper:

- explores these two profoundly compatible struggles for change, both of which resist not only exploitation and oppression but alienation itself and put the meaning of what it is to be human at the core of movement theory and practice;

- briefly sketches the intensification of capitalist class power and violent neo-liberal expansion and enforcement of enclosure and commodification that have made our humanity a burning question for ever wider groups and put Indigenous struggles at the forefront of resistance today;

- reflects on the ways learning from historical and actually existing Indigenous gift culture/ economy and matriarchal social structures can deepen and re-affirm integrative feminist analysis and vision;

- considers the potential for building more pro-active solidarity between these two movement tendencies.