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First Nations' self-government, Indigenous self-determination: On the transformative role of agonistic Indigeneity in challenging the conceptual limits of sovereignty



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This thesis explores the possibilities of decolonizing the Euro-American political traditions of sovereignty in an effort to re-craft the social contract between the Canadian state and Indigenous peoples. It argues that the Canadian state embodies a particularly narrow conception of sovereignty that limits the possibility of actors representing claims to Aboriginal self-government to challenge the paramountcy of the state. Claims to Aboriginal self-government are truncated because most meaningful manifestations of self-government that challenges the principles of sovereignty are largely rejected by the Canadian state. There are models of Aboriginal self-government that are permissible, proving that the state is willing to negotiate to some extent and to stretch its understanding of sovereignty to accommodate Aboriginal rights, but important models recognizing Indigenous nationhood are squeezed out by the limited political imagination that positions the state in its hierarchical apex, to the exclusion of Indigenous self-determination. This thesis will first delineate how Canadian sovereignty is legitimized and established, and will proceed to argue that the models of Aboriginal self-government that are permissible are those that do not challenge the paramountcy of the state and therefore allow only for a constrained model of self-determination. Through a critical theoretical lens of Indigeneity, this thesis will examine the underlying assumptions that curtail the discourse on self-government. A new social discourse framework called agonistic Indigeneity will be presented as an avenue for challenging colonial state sovereignty and for asserting political imaginations that privilege Indigenous understandings of sovereignty.



First Nations, Aboriginal, self-government, self-determination, sovereignty, Indigeneity, agonism, agonistic Indigeneity, radical imagination



Master of Arts (M.A.)


Political Studies


Political Science


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