Mario Blaser

Dr. Mario Blaser

Cross-Appointed to Department of Anthropology and Department of Geography
Undergraduate Officer
Coordinator, Certificate in Indigenous Studies
Coordinator, Diploma in Ancient Worlds
Tier II Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Studies 2009-2019 (Completed)



Office: QC-4017

Ph.D. McMaster University, 2003
M.A. Carleton University, 1997
B.A. Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1992

Research Interests

My general area of research until recently has been the politics of colonization/decolonization through the lens of conflicts over development and/or conservation projects mainly involving Indigenous communities in Paraguay and Labrador. In this line of enquiry, I began to develop ‘political ontology,’ an analytical framework that interrogates whether conflicts around things defined as resources (be these natural or artifactual), are only about that. The paradigmatic example would be a conflict over a hunting ban of caribou to which local Indigenous peoples might be opposed because it interferes with their relations with a ‘spirit owner’ while the state only see there an animal, a natural resource that must be managed and protected. The usual characterization of this kind of conflict in terms of a clash of cultural perspectives over an ‘animal’ appears utterly insufficient from a political ontology’s standpoint, for it opens the door to establish a hierarchy between ‘cultural perspectives,’ a hierarchy which often makes local perspectives ‘more cultural’ than those backed by science, the state and corporations. Political ontology sustains that in these kinds of conflicts there is clash of realities that are often resolved by colonial imposition. How to address these conflicts without colonial impositions is the key question political ontology asks.

More recently I have become interested in what I call ‘infrastructures of emplacement,’ (that is, practices, knowledges, and institutions that enforce bonds to the specificity of a place) and the need to find ways to strengthen them in the face of the socioenvironmental crises many refer to through the concept of the Anthropocene. I am particularly (but not exclusively) interested in two sets of potential infrastructures of emplacement: heritage practices and emerging legal frameworks that purportedly make room for the expression of different modes of existence (or ontologies) grounded in ‘territories.’ By heritage practices I mean all kinds of practices (from food procurement to museological collections, and from the protection of ‘landscape features’ to the management of waste that will be passed on to future generations). I want to interrogate the kinds of places these kinds of heritage practices produce, what heterogeneities they include or occlude in their valuation of things that must be preserved and or contained. Regarding legal frameworks, I have in mind recent developments that recognize rivers, territories o even oceans as non-human persons with rights. In this case I ask to what extent can these emerging legal frameworks actually open up spaces for alternative practices of place, and what these look like. These general themes are investigated through several research initiatives with collaborators and students. There are funding opportunities for MA and PhD students within these initiatives. Visit the Department of Archaeology's News Article for more information

I am cross-appointed in the departments of Archaeology, Anthropology and Geography and can supervise or co-supervise MA and PhD students in any of them. I also co-supervise students in other universities, in Canada and abroad, if I am strongly interested in their research. If you want to work with me, either at Memorial or elsewhere, on any topic close to my research interests (past or ongoing) or in a topic I have not listed but you think I might be of help, feel free to contact me and lets discuss opportunities. I sometime can offer funding opportunities to study at MUN. Check out what current opportunities I have for interested MA and PhD students

Ongoing (at Memorial)

  • Gourlay, Sarah (MA) Project title: Breaking Bread: Network Tracing of Bread Production as an Exploration into Self-Reliance in Ferryland, Newfoundland
  • McMillan, Alessandra (MA) Project title: Death and Heritage: An Archaeological Analysis of the Differential Treatment of Two Historic Burial Grounds in Ferryland, Newfoundland. (co-supervised with Dr. Barry Gaulton)
  • Peralta Ruiz, Nadia (MA) Project title: Countermonumentality and memory: The case of the Glorieta de Colón monument in Mexico City. (co-supervised with Dr. Oscar Moro-Abadia)
  • McNaughton, Gillian (MA) Project title Innu Fisheries Into the Future. (co-supervised with Dr. Julia Christensen). Geography, Memorial University
  • Adjemian-Baskerville, Maro (PhD) Project title: The Entangled Territorialities of Atikamekw Nehirowisiw Protected Area Creation: Indigenous Self-determination Through Conservation?
    (co-supervised with Dr. Arn Keeling). Geography, Memorial University.
  • Gomez, Sandra (PhD) Project title: The Intellectual Property of the Mola:
    Negotiating Gunadules' world-making practices in legal settings. (co-supervised with Dr. Robin Whitaker) Anthropology, Memorial University.

Completed (at Memorial)

  • Osmond, Jazpyn (MA 2020) When You Can’t Unearth the Covered Up: Archaeology and the Memorialization of Mount Cashel Orphanage (co-supervised with Dr. Oscar Moro Abadía) Archaeology, Memorial University.
  • Schoot, Ignace (MA 2019) Opening up containment: making space in Newfoundland salmonid aquaculture. (co-supervised with Dr. Charles Mather). Geography, Memorial University.
  • Poirier, Claire (PhD 2018) Hunting Buffalo Under the Ground: Encounters in Heritage Management. Archaeology, Memorial University.
  • Stuart, Alyse (MA 2017) Frack'turing Canadian settler narratives: the Elsipogtog shale gas protests and indigenous women's resistance. (co-supervised with Dr. Carol-Lynne D’Arcangelis) Gender Studies, Memorial University.
  • Tytelman, Carolina (PhD 2016) Place and forest co-management in Nitassinan/Labrador. Anthropology, Memorial University.
  • Castro, Damián (PhD 2015) Meating the social: sharing atiku-euiash in Sheshatshiu, Labrador. Anthropology, Memorial University.
Recent Publications