Who is indigenous? James J. A. Blair, Extracting Indigeneity: Oil, Environment and Self-Determination in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), PhD Dissertation, CUNY, 2016
Abstract: This ethnographic and historical project examines how the settlers of the Falkland Islands (In Spanish, Malvinas) are constructing themselves as “natives” through new forms of governance over energy resources. Three decades after a violent war that cemented the archipelago’s British status, offshore oil discoveries led Argentina to renew its sovereignty claim. In response, the Falkland Islanders held a 2013 referendum on self-determination, in which 99.8% voted to remain British, with just three dissenters out of 1,517 valid votes. Most of the Islanders are white settlers, making their invocation of self-determination different from that of former colonial subjects with aboriginal rights. Unlike comparable settler colonies predicated on the elimination of the native, there is no historical trace of a pre-colonial indigenous population on the islands. To understand how the settlers are securing rights to territory and resources, this project examines debates around political, economic and ecological stability. The research incorporates participant observation, analysis of colonial letters and reports, and interviews collected during 20 months of fieldwork in the Falklands/Malvinas, Argentina and the United Kingdom. Drawing on this data, chapters explore contradictory practices of territorialization, through aspects of displacement, enclosure, peoplehood, personhood, infrastructure, science and nature. The dissertation concludes that by claiming self-determination, the Falkland Islanders are crafting a settler colonial protectorate for hydrocarbon production through popular consent to British sovereignty.
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