Weaver-Tremblay Award in Canadian Applied Anthropology 2023 - Prof. Colin Scott

Published: 30 October 2023

Weaver-Tremblay 2023: Anthropological Activism for Territories of Life

11/16/2023 6:30 PM - 8:15 PM, TMCC Hall F

Prof. Colin Scott has received the prestigious Weaver-Tremblay Award in Canadian Applied Anthropology for his “longstanding commitments to the territorial rights, sovereignty, and self-determination of Indigenous peoples in Canada.”

He will receive the award at the AAA/CASCA Annual Meeting in Toronto, where he will also give the Weaver-Tremblay Address. 

Weaver-Tremblay Address

The foremost crises of our times – of human suffering and environmental decline – propel a diverse reimagining of anthropology, and how our discipline is to engage these crises. Orthodox accumulation of capital and consolidation of power deliver not just mounting levels of material inequality and insecurity for humans, but accelerating species extinctions and climate change that undermine well-being and beauty on Earth. It becomes increasingly difficult to think of human justice separate from environmental justice. If, through some force of inertia, human rights and the rights of nature occupy somewhat distinctive discursive registers, it is increasingly difficult to imagine solving one without solving the other. An anthropology for the human increasingly demands a more than human anthropology, an anthropology of relationalities that embrace whole webs of human and other-than-human life. I want to consider an activist anthropology for these times. It is not news for our discipline that biodiversity loss is tied to declines in cultural diversity – we have long worked among peoples for whom territorial disruption and dislocation have accompanied the loss of institutions, of knowledge and of languages. Our work with Indigenous and other communities offers a particular vantage point on the perils of capitalist modernity, and at the same time, pathways for practical response and remedy, anchored in the outlooks of local interlocutors and collaborators, and their strategies for weathering storms and shaping worlds. The exceptional promise of these strategies is their reference to ontologies that refuse a logic of anthropocentric, competitive, perpetual economic growth, insisting rather on a more fundamental law of reciprocity – law in both scientific and normative senses of the term. This is not some pale cultural relativist accommodation, but recognition rather of a paradigm that understands modernist excesses as dead-end forms of negative reciprocity, while advancing positive reciprocities as the standard of care for places, all beings, and territories of life. My discussion turns, then, to some key elements of a movement around ‘territories of life,’ governed and conserved by Indigenous and other local community stewards, where livelihoods, lifeways and stewardship practices are integral to flourishing biocultural community. This movement is a lens for considering a range of theoretical and practical matters for an engaged anthropology: our role in inter-disciplinary and inter-epistemic knowledge co-creation; the ethics of decolonial research and pedagogy in Indigenous and other community contexts; the political dynamics linking action at scales of community and territory to macro-system transformation; and the diverse alliances that are possible and necessary to generate change.

Colin Scott (McGill University, Department of Anthropology)

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