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Book Reviews

Routledge Handbook of Critical Indigenous Studies. Brendan Hokowhitu, Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Linda Tuhiwai-Smith, Chris Andersen, and Steve Larkin, eds. Milton Park, UK: Routledge, 2020. 632p, 32 B/W illustrations. $250.00 (ISBN 978-1138341302).

Book cover for Routledge Handbook of Critical Indigenous Studies

For better or worse, Routledge has a long history of publishing content on Indigenous peoples and has recently published handbooks on Indigenous people’s rights, Indigenous peoples of the Arctic, Indigenous environmental knowledge, and, most recently, Indigenous well-being. The Routledge Handbook of Critical Indigenous Studies was published in late 2020; it asserts that it is “ambitious in scope, ranging across disciplines and national boundaries, with particular reference to the lived conditions of Indigenous peoples in the first world.”

As one would hope, all authors are Indigenous, with roughly a third of the authors identifying as Native American or First Nations peoples, one third as Māori, and the remaining third of authors as Aboriginal, Kānaka Maoli or Kānaka ʻōiwi, Sámi, Alaska Native, Mexican, and Samoan.

In many ways, I am the model audience for this book, as an Indigenous practitioner in multiple disciplines and professional spaces. Additionally, many of the authors in this volume are scholars whose works I had read previously and whose works I follow closely. On a personal note, it is nice to see other Māori scholars so well-represented in a mainstream work. However, I see this book as having a broad appeal across many disciplines, ranging from Indigenous studies (including Hawaiian, Māori, Pacific Islander, Native American, First Nations, or other Ethnic Studies departments or programs), history, sociology, anthropology, gender or queer studies, law, politics, literature, social movements, and more.

Moreover, this book embodies a spirit of collaboration and an uplifting of Indigenous ways of knowledge sharing that is evident in the very organization of the book. A different Indigenous editor guides each of the five main sections of this handbook, organized as follows: Part 1—Disciplinary knowledge and epistemology (Chris Andersen, Métis); Part 2—Indigenous theory and method (Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou, Tūhourangi); Part 3—Sovereignty (Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Goenpul); Part 4—Political economies, ecologies, and technologies (Steve Larkin, Kungarakan), and Part 5—Bodies, performance, and praxis (Brendan Hokowhitu, Ngāti Pūkenga).

In a time where many pivotal Indigenous conferences and gatherings have been postponed or squeezed into unaccommodating online platforms, this volume meets a need for a celebratory gathering of Indigenous scholars. The 43 chapters include personal narratives, poetry, and retelling of stories, in addition to the more traditionally theoretical text one might expect in an academic handbook. It all has a place here, from Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s multilayered narrative of Indigenous perspectives on COVID-19, to Michelle M. Hogue’s piece on how centering Indigenous sovereignty can transform Indigenous retention and outcomes within STEM.

Several scholars within this volume take the opportunity to reflect on Indigenous Studies as a discipline and the complicated way that Indigenous scholars navigate academia. For example, the opening chapter by Chris Andersen gives a history of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA), and the tension between support for Indigenous studies from NAISA and from the institutions where NAISA members are employed. The following chapter, by poet and scholar Alice Te Punga Somerville, uses her personal narrative to trace the ways Indigenous scholars have their legitimacy dictated by an institution. Examples include whether te reo Māori is accepted as a foreign language requirement in an American PhD program, or whether a Māori literary scholar with four degrees in English should be based in English studies or Māori studies. Across chapters, authors reflect on our similarities with and differences from other disciplines, and the ways that colonization has impacted our presence in the academy, and non-Indigenous perceptions of our work.

Dr. Te Punga Somerville writes,

We often talk about the ways that Indigenous Studies looks and works so differently in nation-state contexts, as if specificity overriding uniformity is a bad thing or unique to Indigenous Studies. But English looks different in different places too: English in New Zealand is supremely white, and extremely conservative, whereas departments of English in the United States (and Canada) tend to be places that critical thinking about race, colonialism, gender, sexuality, etc. happen.

At 632 pages, this is a hefty volume that presents Indigenous knowledge as a dynamic set of frameworks that both draw from our traditional knowledges and set aspirations for those of us in the academy—students, workers, and elders alike. While identity, region, and focus shift from one author to another, ideals of relationality and community do not. Some of our elders are represented here—such as Linda Tuhiwai Smith, known as the Mother of Indigenous Studies. With sadness, I note that the late Haunani-Kay Trask did not have a piece in this volume—undoubtedly due to illness, not an editorial oversight. Both Trask and Smith were elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences this year, with both scholars noted as founding Hawai’ian and Māori tertiary studies in their respective homelands.

Still, the late Dr. Trask is cited throughout the book, and scholar Nālani Wilson-Hokowhitu writes, “I write in honour of Haunani and our long lineage of mana wāhine.” Many of the authors pay their respects to those who encouraged, mentored, and supported them on their academic journeys, past and present—a reminder of the sovereignty, disciplines, and enduring care that are core to Indigenous ways of knowing, and that makes the Routledge Handbook of Critical Indigenous Studies such a compelling and energetic volume.—Nicola Andrews, University of San Francisco

Copyright Nicola Andrews


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