Performative Sovereignty During Times of Resistance: Sovereignty Discourses During the Wet'suwet'en Land Occupation

Reinders, Heather Kathryn
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University of Guelph

In the study of International Relations, western states have been typically understood as the seat of legitimate public authority where sovereignty discourses are centred on state power. However, critical IR scholars are beginning to draw attention to the state as performatively enacted. From this perspective, state sovereignty is not a fixed characteristic of the state, but instead must be constantly re/produced through interactions between the state and the populace. This thesis investigates this performative understanding of states through analyzing the Wet’suwet’en land occupation at Unist’ot’en Village and Gidimt’en Access Checkpoint in northwestern British Columbia, Canada. This project finds that Indigenous Nations tended to appeal to tradition, Indigenous law, and the landed requirement of Indigenous sovereignty; while the Canadian state tended to focus on maintaining the artificial boundaries between rights, resistance, and contemporary Indigenous governance which has marked Canada’s political approach to Indigenous rights.

International relations, state sovereignty, Wet’suwet’en land occupation, British Columbia, Indigenous Nations