Fraser Lab DEIJ Journal Club - Land Acknowledgments

A group of scientists within the Fraser lab have begun a journal club centered around issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice within academia, specifically in the biological sciences.

Our goal is to provide an environment for continued learning, critical discussion, and brainstorming action items that individuals and labs can implement. Our discussions and proposed interventions reflect our own opinions based on our personal identities and lived experiences, and may differ from the identities and experiences of others. We will recap our discussions and proposed action items through a series of blog posts, and encourage readers to directly engage with DEIJ practitioners and their scholarship to improve your environment.

Article: The limits of settlers’ territorial acknowledgments. Asher L, Curnow J & Davis A (2018) DOI: 10.1080/03626784.2018.1468211

Summary: There has been an increase in the performance of land acknowledgments by non-Indigenous people in non-Indigenous, primarily academic settler, spaces. This article examines what purpose do these land acknowledgments serve, who are they for, and can land acknowledgments performed by settlers be improved to better reflect the original intentions of Indigenous people who created this practice?

Key Points:

  • Settlers perform land acknowledgments as a means of combating the erasure of Indigenous people.
    • The pedagogical intention has been to combat erasure and force settlers to grapple with our positionality.
  • In becoming standardized and mainstream, it is reduced to a “mundane “box-ticking” exercise, easily ignored and void of learning opportunities.”
  • Settler moves to innocence are those strategies or positionings that attempt to relieve the settler of feelings of guilt or responsibility without giving up land or power or privilege, without having to change much at all.
  • The practice needs to be improved to avoid becoming rote and normalized.

Open Questions:

  • What pedagogical work do territorial acknowledgments accomplish in settler spaces?
  • What do people learn from a territorial acknowledgment and does it serve any decolonial purpose?
  • Are territorial acknowledgments productive in disrupting avoidance mechanisms and pushing settlers towards decolonial solidarity?

Proposed Action Items:

  • Begin including an intentional and well-researched land acknowledgment in your presentations.
  • Include specific examples of how settlers can contribute to decolonial efforts.