An Indigenous Understanding of Sustainability

Chaired by Dr Laura Siragusa (University of Helsinki; laura.siragusa@helsinki.fi), and Assistant Professor Pirjo Virtanen (University of Helsinki; pirjo.virtanen@helsinki.fi)

This panel addresses indigenous perspectives of sustainability, appreciating that this concept might be understood and experienced differently by policy-makers, scholars, and indigenous (and non-) communities living in different environments. Therefore, not only we invite papers that discuss how processes of extractivism, environmental change, migration, and social differentiation affect (and are affected by) indigenous communities, but that also tackle the following questions: – How do indigenous communities conceptualize (if at all) sustainability? – How do indigenous peoples understand and/or perform a sustainable lifestyle? – To what extent do these practices match the political discourse and scholarly endeavours around the concept of sustainability? – How do sustainability discourses affect (and are affected by) indigenous communities? Discussing sustainability in relation to indigenous communities raises questions related to methodology, too. Thus, we suggest pondering what kind of methods may (or may not) guarantee cooperation between scholars and indigenous communities to produce knowledge sustainability, and secure a dialogue with other institutions of power.

We propose a session where scholars and representatives of indigenous communities can meet and engage in a discussion around the concept of sustainability. For this reason, in our session each participant will be allocated 20 minutes with the option to either engage in a conference-type of presentation or any other activity that answers to the questions risen in the session. This will be followed by a 10-minute discussion. We will decide the output of the session accordingly to the style of the presentations; that is, if the participants opt for more academic-oriented presentations, we will look into the possibility to publish either a special issue or an edited volume in a leading journal or publishing house on the theme of indigenous sustainabilities. However, if the participants opt for other ways to discuss sustainability, we will look into other more creative forms to present and divulgate their work, which reach out to academic and non-academic audiences.