Indigenous Peoples and the Jurisgenerative Moment in Human Rights

05 Mar 2014 09:44pm Kristen A. Carpenter & Angela R. Riley 

As indigenous peoples have become actively engaged in the human rights movement around the world, the sphere of international law, once deployed as a tool of imperial power and conquest, has begun to change shape. Increasingly, international human rights law serves as a basis for indigenous peoples' claims against states and even influences indigenous groups' internal processes of decolonization and revitalization. Empowered by a growing body of human rights instruments, some as embryonic as the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), indigenous peoples are embracing a global "human rights culture" to articulate rights ranging from individual freedom and equality to collective self-determination, property, and culture. Accordingly, this Essay identifies and provides an account of what we see as an unprecedented, but decidedly observable, phenomenon: the current state of indigenous peoples' rights-manifesting in tribal, national, and international legal systems-reflects the convergence of a set of dynamic, mutually reinforcing conditions. The intersection of the rise of international human rights with paradigm shifts in postcolonial theory has, we argue, triggered a "jurisgenerative moment" in indigenous rights. Bringing indigenous norms and values to their advocacy, indigenous peoples have worked to assert their voices in, and indeed to influence, the human rights movement. Indigenous peoples are now using the laws and language of human rights, shaped by indigenous experiences, not only to engage states but also as a tool of internal reform in tribal governance. This is, in our view, a jurisgenerative moment in indigenous rights-a moment when both the concept and practice of human rights have the potential to become more capacious and reflect the ways that individuals and peoples around the globe live, and want to live, today.

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