Irreconcilable differences: what can Poststructuralism offer First Nations and Indigenous people in the Academy?

Year: 2019

Author: McKinnon, Daniel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In ‘Breaking up with Deleuze’, Unangax scholar Eve Tuck (2010) describes detangling her theorising from the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. In short, Tuck’s argument is that poststructuralism doesn’t offer anything to Indigenous scholarship it doesn’t already ‘know’ or embody. In one sense, Tuck’s work continues a broad critique put forward by many Indigenous scholars as to the usefulness and appropriateness of poststructuralism, and its predominantly European, dead, white, male leaders. However, in her departure from poststructuralism – and its epistemological and ontological commitments – Tuck underlines the importance of valuing the ‘irreconcilable’ for First Nations scholars and tending to absence and loss which too is permanent and ‘impossible to undo’. My argument is that the productive tension between poststructuralism and Indigenous knowledge systems offer placeholders for the bereaved in which their own irreconcilable losses may also be realised, valued and tended to. In korero (speaking) with Tuck, I would like to suggest there remains an important contribution that poststructural theory can have in bringing the dislocated, disenfranchised and diasporic First Nations to First Nations methodologies, ways of knowing and being. Indeed, this paper has been written from my own sense of dislocation and loss as an Australian born, Pakeha Maori – that found his way back to his iwi and ancestors I didn’t always know were missing. With the help of Deleuze, these recent insights into my whakapapa (genealogy) have provided a way for me to ‘walk backwards’ into the future as a legitimate avenue for exploring notions of place, space and belonging in te ao Pakeha (the world of Pakeha) and that has made all the difference.

Tuck, E. (2010). Breaking up with Deleuze: desire and valuing the irreconcilable. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 23(5), 635-650. doi: 10.1080/09518398.2010.500633