The concept of “indigeneity” in the contemporary world is a crucial, still evolving legacy of colonialism and nation-state formation across the globe in the preceding centuries. Indigeneity has conventionally been defined against the background of territorial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural dominance within nation-states. At the same time, global flows of goods, people, information, resources, and risks cut across national borders with unprecedented intensity, investing actors at both sub-national and super-national scales with new roles, power, and perils. Thus an important facet of the struggle for definition and legitimacy of indigeneity has been the growing role of transnational institutions and movements, which include international entities such as the United Nations and the World Bank, non-governmental organizations operating across borders, and transnational networks of indigeneous peoples themselves.

The ascription of indigeneity, which once derived mainly from a people’s history of belonging to a territory and culture that were subjugated through conquest by colonial empires and marginalized in successor post-colonial nations, now is being thoroughly mediated by human and nonhuman actors and forces that transcend the national form. The transnational dynamics mobilized around the question of indigeneity have helped extend the concept to new reaches of the globe, new communities of people, and new issues to which earlier definitions of indigeneity are not immediately applicable.

Learn more about the group’s work in the interdisciplinary field of indigeneity: