But We Do Theorize! Indigenous Scholarship and Sociology

Panels and Plenary
Indigenous-Settler Relations And Decolonization

“Of course, there are conflicting theories among us, but we do theorize. But it appears that we may still be considered more as storytelling peoples or cultural or victim/trauma informants, not contemporary theorists and intellectuals'” (p.165).
-Emma LaRocque (2010) When the Other is Me.


Here, LaRocque insists on a place for Indigenous persons as scholarly theorists. Of course, diverse Indigenous peoples across lands claimed by Canada have always made their own place as theorists, making sense of the world and their own and others’ place in it. But historical and contemporary colonial relationships, institutions and politics have deliberately suppressed these insights, not least in the university. Although Indigenous persons have been in the academy since the 1960s, Indigenous theorizing continues to be marginalized, including because of institutional divisions of intellectual labour. This is a loss for sociology. Moreover, excluding Indigenous theorizing has political repercussions, reproducing the Indigenous person as the ‘object’ of colonial research rather than as knowledgeable actor capable of theorizing her own experiences and relationship with the world. This session invites contributions that critically interrogate the relationships and mechanisms that thwart serious, critical engagement by the discipline of sociology with Indigneous theorizing; and contributions that offer ways forward to sociology’s critical engagement with Indigenous scholarship, in its diversity and richness.

Panel participants:
1) Hayden King, School of Public Policy, Carleton University

Hayden King is Anishinaabe from Beausoleil First Nation on Gchi’mnissing in Huronia, Ontario. He has been teaching Indigenous Studies since 2007 with positions at McMaster, Ryerson and Carleton Universities. His commentary on Indigenous-state relations is published widely.


2.) Julie Tomiak, Ryerson University
Julie Tomiak is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Ryerson University, where she teaches courses on Indigenous-settler relations, racism, decolonization, and qualitative research methods. Her research focuses on urban Indigenous communities, self-determination, and resistance to settler colonialism and state violence. She is of Anishinaabe and European descent.
3). Vanessa Watts, McMaster University
Vanessa Watts is Mohawk and Anishnaabe, Bear clan. A faculty member at McMaster University in the Indigenous Studies Program, Vanessa teaches in areas of Contemporary Indigenous Issues, Residential Schools, Indigenous Sovereignty, Indigenous Knowledge and Methodologies, and Government and Politics. Her research centres on how Indigenous peoples and their lands are influenced by colonialism and efforts to revitalize traditional governance systems amidst this. Her work has an emphasis on Indigenous women specifically including how they are affected by colonialism.

Eve Tuck, Associate Professor of Critical Race and Indigenous Studies, Social Justice Education OISE, University of Toronto

Eve Tuck is Associate Professor of Critical Race and Indigenous Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto. She is a William T Grant Scholar (2015-2020) and was a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in 2011. Tuck’s writing and research is on urban education and Indigenous studies. As a whole, her work focuses on how Indigenous social thought can be engaged to create more fair and just social policy, more meaningful social movements, and when that doesn’t work, robust approaches to decolonization.


Elaine Coburn, Department of International Studies, Glendon Campus, York University

Elaine Coburn is a non-Indigenous scholar. She is is assistant professor of International Studies, York University, and a member of the Faculty of Graduate Studies in Sociology and Gender, Women’s and Feminist Studies. She is the former editor of Socialist Studies, an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal, and on the editorial boards of the Canadian Review of Sociology and Socio, the later based in Paris, France. Finally, she is the author of the edited book, More Will Sing Their Way to Freedom: Indigenous Resistance and Resurgence(Fernwood 2015), prefaced by Cree speaking Métis poet and scholar Emma LaRocque.


Organizer: Elaine Coburn, Glendon Campus, York University