Loading CPSA Conference APP Loading depends on your connection speed!


Political Theory

H15(a) - Territory and Sovereignty

Date: Jun 6 | Time: 08:45am to 10:15am | Location: SWING 307

Chair/Président/Présidente : Yann Allard-Tremblay (York University)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Yann Allard-Tremblay (York University)

Reclaiming Westphalia: Early European Federations and the Origins of Territorial Non-Sovereignty: Anna Jurkevics (University of British Columbia)
Abstract: This paper poses the 1648 Treaties of Westphalia, which re-established order in continental Europe after the Thirty Years War, as a key moment in the development of a subterranean tradition of theorizing territorial non-sovereignty in history of political thought. The Westphalian moment has long been regarded in political science as the birth of territorial sovereignty, though this origin story has more recently been debunked as a myth (e.g. Osiander 2001, Krasner 1999). In fact, the treaties never mention “sovereignty”, a term which originated in French and English debates over religious and civil conflict. The history of sovereignty belongs to Bodin and Hobbes, not to the imperial-federal German principalities of the Holy Roman Empire. But what exactly did the treaties of Westphalia establish? In this paper, I employ a textual analysis of the treaties and recent historiography in order to argue that Westphalia set the terms for a regime of divided rule between principalities and the Holy Roman Empire which should be regarded as a proto-federation, one which institutionalized legal pluralism and overlapping authority instead of exclusive sovereignty. A contextualized reading of the Westphalian Treaties allows us to see in them the genesis of an idea quite the opposite of sovereignty, and one worth revisiting today: namely, the idea that territorial autonomy is compatible with legal pluralism and federal power-sharing. So interpreted, the treaties of Westphalia can be understood as one of the early, and most articulate, formulations of modern territorial non-sovereignty.

Against Logocentrism: Writing Indigenous Sovereignty in Settler Colonialism: Janice Feng (University of Michigan)
Abstract: Canonical political theorists such as John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Alexis de Tocqueville often posit Indigenous peoples of the New World as belonging to a prior temporality, one that has been surpassed by European civilization. Indigenous peoples are confined to the state of nature, prior to civil and political rule. What makes it possible for Europeans and their American and Canadian political descendants to confine Indigenous peoples to such a temporality? How does this temporization work in erasing indigenous sovereignty? To tackle this question of temporization, I take up Jacques Derrida’s post-colonial critique of European logocentrism (and ethnocentrism) that he develops through a critique of Levi-Strauss’ account of writing to argue that it is by positing Indigenous peoples as innocent beings who possess full self-presence that imperial and settler-colonial discourses denied and continue to deny their sovereignty and fail to acknowledge them as social and political agents. Taking up this critical lens, I engage with Mohawk anthropologist Audra Simpson’s account of sovereignty as refusal and Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar Leanne Simpson and Dene political theorist Glen Coulthard’s framework of grounded normativity as two examples of the ways in which contemporary Indigenous sovereignty in North America are elaborated. I argue that these accounts are not in search of a pristine or pure origin, but a recreation of indigeneity as a political subjectivity at the present.

Uncanny Sovereignty: Freudian Political Theory: Andrew Young (University of Toronto)
Abstract: In Derrida’s last lecture, The Beast and the Sovereign, he traces a history of political theory – from the ancients, to Hobbes, through Schmitt and Arendt – based on the through line of constituting a political community, the polis, based on the interrelated exclusions of the other – wolf, bandit, slave, foreigner, homo sacer, etc. – and the sovereign power. These exclusions structure and give coherence to the political community and to sovereignty itself. Though Derrida regularly borrows from Freud to call sovereignty “uncanny” or “unheimlich”, he never elaborates on this, despite the fact that Freud’s essay, “The Uncanny”, includes an explanation of how the human subject constitutes itself by drawing its own limit to exclude what it is not. When Freud is considered politically, studies tend to focus on how he is or could be applied in relation to politics without necessarily ascribing a concept of the political to his theory. Therefore, it is unusual to suggest that Freud be considered a thinker of sovereignty. In Eli Zaretsky’s 2017 Political Freud: A History, for example, he surveys Freud’s political activities, his influence on politics, and the way political thinkers use his work, but there is no mention of sovereignty and barely a mention of the uncanny. It is my intention to show that not only does Freud have a concept of the political, but that by engaging with Freud’s work as political theory, we can explain why such a long line of political thinkers take for granted that sovereignty requires excluding

We Rise: Mapping Indigenous Assurgency across Turtle Island: Denali YoungWolfe (University of British Columbia)
Abstract: Indigenous people are the fastest growing population in Canada, yet they are under-represented and negatively represented in Canadian literature, media and public spaces. This matters because negative representations of identity are tied to suicide, and under the Canadian state one-third of all Indigenous children die by suicide. Research indicates that Indigenous communities with control over cultural-continuity factors like education, land, health, and womxn in government, experience little or no suicide. This suggests that self-efficacy in those communities is shaped by positive, self-determining narratives. It further suggests that in communities with minimal cultural-continuity and high suicide, self-efficacy is largely determined by dominant narratives of Indigenous deficit and victimhood. Notably, Canada is the only G8 country without a national suicide prevention strategy or death review mechanism. As a survivor of the child welfare system, adopted and raised in my Nêhiyaw culture, I am acutely aware of the need to challenge dominant narratives of what it is to be Indigenous in Canada. My research is grounded in Indigenous decolonial methodologies, and works with Indigenous communities to identify and map community defined ‘success stories’ in order to address this gap. Significantly, I seek to analyze geo-spatial relationships between assurgent Indigenous identity, cultural continuity and suicide rates with the aim of informing policy development. Further, my research develops the notion of Assurgency as a land-based paradigm for articulating sovereignty within an Indigenous ontology that is external to the settler-colonial dichotomy.