Culture, Identity and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Norwegian Institute of Human Rights (NIHR) will host a single-day seminar course with anthropologist Ronald Niezen (Ph.D.), Friday 4 May 9.15-16.00, at the NIHR seminar room (Universitetsgata 22-24). A course outline is given below, as well as a list of readings. Researcher Stener Ekern of the NIHR is in charge of the course.
Only registered participants will be allowed to attend the seminar, with a maximum of 15 registrations. Interested parties are asked to register no later than Friday 27 April by phone (22842032) or email ( to Øyvind Henden at the NIHR.

Course description
This seminar is intended to provide participants with an introduction to anthropological, historical and political approaches to the rights (especially the human rights) of Indigenous Peoples. The readings and lectures for this seminar will show that “Indigenous Peoples,” as a legal, social, and political category and source of identity, are of very recent origin. The Indigenous Peoples movement began principally as a concept in international law, and has since become a focal point of renewed political identity. The questions this raises include the following: What are the conditions that allowed this global form of identity to develop? What are the common experiences, reflected in emerging human rights standards, of those who refer to themselves as “Indigenous Peoples”? From an anthropological perspective, what are the implications for nation-states of indigenous claims to self-determination and cultural continuity? The effort to address these questions will reveal the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to human rights, above all the usefulness of social research for achieving a better understanding of communities that are rediscovering and redefining their political status and cultural distinctiveness.

Readings for the course

Kingsbury, Benedict. 1998. “ Indigenous Peoples’ in International Law: A Constructivist Approach to the Asian Controversy.” American Journal of International Law. 92(3): 414-457.

Niezen, Ronald. 2000. “ Recognizing Indigenism: Canadian Unity and the International Movement of Indigenous Peoples.” Comparative Studies in Society and History. 42(1): 119-148.

Ph.D. Ronald Niezen is a Canadian social anthropologist with teaching experience at Harvard and extensive field work with Canadian aboriginal peoples. Dr. Ronald Niezen is this spring visiting senior researcher the Åbo University Institute for Human Rights. In Åbo, Dr. Niezen is working on a book on the global indigenous movement in addition to teaching a course on anthropological approaches to the rights of indigenous peoples. Among his publications are Spirit wars : Native North American religions in the age of nation building and Defending the Land: Sovereignty and Forest Life in James Bay Cree Society.