Patrick Thornberry
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Who is indigenous?
Concept, definition, process
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This chapter takes a preliminary look at indigenous peoples through a selection of general statements which represent key indicators of international law and practice. Most of the instruments and statements assessed here were drafted primarily by governments and thus reflect a largely external view. In contrast, the draft Declaration and indigenous statements can be quarried to provide a window on the self-understanding of indigenous groups. The chapter deals in the broad conceptualisation of the issue, including complications from the ‘neighbour effects’ of rights of minorities and rights of peoples generally. The narrower question of definition is also accounted for. Conventional approaches to concept and definition involve recourse to subjective (the will to survive) and objective factors (possession of distinct ‘characteristics’). These have been supplemented by problematising approaches which seek to illuminate the web of ethical, political, and epistemological considerations justifying the use of ‘indigenous’, and its contestation.

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