On indigenous sovereignties: Ulf Mörkenstam, ‘Recognition as if sovereigns? A procedural understanding of indigenous self-determination’, Citizenship Studies, 2015
Abstract: In the last two decades we have witnessed a growing global acknowledgement of indigenous rights – manifested in the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – challenging the traditional nation-state-centred understanding of political rights and democracy. In this paper, the author argues that indigenous self-determination is to be understood as a way to level the balance of power between indigenous peoples and the nation-states in which they live. Without a solid legal foundation for indigenous peoples to define self-determination in their own languages and to negotiate the conditions of their relation with the nation-states on their own terms, the colonial past (and present) of violent conquest and domination might continue. Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination ought in this perspective to imply recognition of indigenous peoples as having a standing equal to nation-states, i.e. as if they were sovereigns. What self-determination means in political practice would thus be the outcome of negotiations between two (or more) equal political entities. In this way, the right to self-determination has to be interpreted procedurally rather than substantially.
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