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This subject examines the relation between Indigenous peoples, justice and the law, through the lens of sovereignty. It reflects critically on the concept of sovereignty, its powerful propensity to transcend its social origins, and its fortress status in law. Through first examining European law’s relation to Indigenous peoples from 1492, the course explores correlations between Europe’s economic expansion and the development of sovereignty, property, and race as key notions that underpin both individual nation-states and the international order they constitute. In bringing this analysis to bear on contemporary aspirations for structural justice, the course then considers the possibilities and limitations of current legal concepts and mechanisms – in both local and global domains – such as prevailing notions of sovereignty, native title, human rights, crimes against humanity, and transitional justice. Finally, the course presents examples of innovative contemporary interventions in support of structural justice in settler states, promoting new ways to think about their complex pasts and presents, and possible future directions.
Intended learning outcomes
At the end of the subject, students should be able to reflect critically on:
- the historical experiences of Indigenous peoples and the development of key western ideas and practices;
- conventional legal and political understandings of sovereignty discourse;
- the impact of European notions of sovereignty, property and race on Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples from 1492 to the present;
- the historical and legal underpinnings of contemporary relationships between Indigenous peoples and European law (and criminal justice systems) in settler states;
- contemporary possibilities for redress and reform in the local and international justice arenas.
On completion of this subject students should:
- demonstrate the capacity to think in theoretical and conceptual terms;
- demonstrate advanced skills in critical thinking and analysis;
- demonstrate the capacity to apply theoretical and historical thinking to the analysis of contemporary social issues.
Last updated: 3 November 2022