Sunday, April 5, 2009

In the Name of Solidarity

This article discusses the Innu community in Labrador. These people are struggling to stick to their way of life because of the modernization of everything around them. Much of their lands have been taken and they have been converted to Catholicism. The government has forced them to school their children, and live an increasingly sedentary life. They must also deal with low flying military aircraft, increased logging and recreational fishing and hunting, and hydroelectric developments. Because of their struggles and their attempts to fight NATO and the aircraft testing over their lands, the Innu have been gaining a lot of support from many other groups.
Thus far, the supporters of the Innu struggle have been employing “representational politics.” The supporters try to represent the struggle by referencing popular cultural narratives. This form of politics basically entails people on the outside of the situation trying to talk for other people, “in their voice.” This is not an effective way of speaking up for a cause. It is important for people to bring to light the struggles and issues, but do so without attempting to speak for them.
An alternative solution brought forth for this issue is “articulation politics.” It is important to show the issues through direct personal encounters. To just show pictures in the media of generic “Native” people does not accomplish a personal reaction from people. They need to connect with the story before wanting to help. This connection can only happen by using real stories with real faces and names. There are still problems with this form of politics. It does not get as much direct attention to use real stories, because they are not as “sensational” as the generic stories and pictures that were chosen specifically for their heart-wrenching nature. In the end, perhaps the best way to raise awareness is to find a middle ground between the two styles.


  1. I do agree that there has to be a fair balance of the different types of politics. Because of the inactivity the Innu are increasingly facing, more groups are becoming aware of the struggles in the community. I feel as though politics of representation is a good way to bring out attention but I'm not sure if this will be the best way to speak out but if the articulation of politics can help people relate using personal encounters.

  2. Kristen,

    The insistence on a "middle ground" strikes me here as a failure to understand the content of the article.

    What Barron is trying to get at is the detrimental effects that cultural essentialism, which can be defined as the treatment of a cultural group as if it were entirely homogeneous and unchanging, has had on the fight for rights to political autonomy. This type of essentialism has allowed the issue of authenticity to enter into the argument for indigenous rights, being used as a weapon by development advocates to imply that, because the real Inuu people do not match the ultra-traditional, essentialized representation that has been used by them and their supporters, they do not deserve a voice in the future of their traditional lands, which is an argument that is completely disconnected from the actual issues at hand.

    What is argued for as an alternative is an approach that connects movements, as you rightly said, but not through "direct personal encounters". What Barron is talking about here has less to do with the verbal connotation of the word, and more to do with the mechanical sense of parts moving together at flexible attachment points. The metaphor that worked for me was to think of the different aspects of the alliance for the cause at hand as plates in a piece of armor designed to move and overlap with the movements of the wearer, here conceptualized as the problem being addressed. This may or may not be helpful, but nonetheless, the discourse being advocated by Barron has very little to do with connecting individuals by personal interaction, and everything to do with connecting social movements by ideological overlap. In this way, the author seeks to take away a weapon of the hegemonic forces that was given to them by the use of cultural essentialism, namely, the authenticity argument.