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Outside and against the Quincentenary: Modern indigenous representations at the time of the Colombian celebrations

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Celebrations in 1992 of Columbus' so-called Discovery of the Americas were a focal point for trans-Atlantic activism. The initial invisibility of Amerindian peoples in planned official proceedings became a source of conflict and was countered with instances of self-representation in conferences, protests, networks, ceremonies and interventions in public debate. In response to exclusion from Quincentennial discourse, indigenous movements coordinated protest across the Atlantic sphere. They achieved a worldwide hearing for perspectives that revolved around visions for differentiated citizenship that entailed (a) inter-nation compacts that were implicitly civilisational, and (b) assertions of indigenous historicity and bold claims around environmental guardianship. This essay begins to explore the vernacular of the social movement that developed at this juncture through a comparative sociological study of continental coordination. It counter-poses the heritage of Euro-American images of fossilised Indian civilisations to living assertions for various forms of sovereignty. It is argued that the transnational politics generated during this stormy episode are part of what can be characterised as an indigenous modernity.
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Keywords: commemoration; indigenous modernity; quincentenary; social movement; sovereignty

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 April 2009

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