Survivance and Indigenous street lifestyles

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This presentation builds upon Gerald Vizenor’s concept of survivance as an applied theory to examine how Indigenous peoples engaged in street lifestyles find creative ways to survive within violent urban street spaces. It explores how survivance is an ever active presence that challenges settler colonialism, where Indigenous peoples are constantly negotiating strategies of survival and resistance to their erasure. Through specific actions of taking up space, which at a specific time and context may be violent or destructive and in this case engaged in local street gang cultures, can be understood as a way to challenge colonial victimry of Indigenous existence. Focusing on a life history and photovoice research project that spans across three different research sites on the Canadian Prairies, this presentation illustrates how survivance needs to be used to challenge Eurocentric positivistic criminological perspectives of crime, that reduces Indigenous experiences to pathologies that focus on Indigenous as lacking or immoral.

Guest: Dr. Robert Henry, University of Saskatchewan

Robert Henry, PhD, is Métis from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and is an Assistant Professor at the University of Saskatchewan in the Department of Indigenous Studies. Robert’s research areas include Indigenous street gangs and gang theories, Indigenous masculinities, Indigenous and critical research methodologies, youth mental health and visual research methods. Working closely with community partners, Robert works to create knowledge mobilization outcomes that reflect community needs and wants. Robert has published in the areas of Indigenous masculinity, Indigenous health, youth subcultures and criminal justice. His current research focuses on the concept of survivance and its applicability within Indigenous research more broadly.

Moderator: Dr. Vanessa Watts, McMaster University

Vanessa Watts is Mohawk and Anishinaabe Bear Clan who lives with her partner and two children on Six Nations of the Grand River.  She is an assistant professor of Indigenous studies sociology at McMaster University. Her research examines Indigenist epistemological and ontological interventions on place-based, material knowledge production. Vanessa is particularly interested in Indigenous feminisms, sociology of knowledge, Indigenous governance, and other-than-human relations as forms of Indigenous ways of knowing. Vanessa’s SSHRC Insight Development Grant for her project “An Indigenist Sociology of Knowledge: Indigenous social lives in Indigenous studies, sociology and political science (1895 and beyond).” The project interrogates over a century of representations of Indigenous peoples in sociology and political science.

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