Mario Blaser

Dr. Mario Blaser

Associate Professor
Tier II Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Studies 2009-2019


Office: QC-4017

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

Research Interests

Currently my research interests can be summarized with the title of my graduate course: When Worlds Meet. What I am trying to work through is the idea that ‘moderns’ have a very particular way of producing the world they live in, one that is profoundly marked by the nature/culture divide. This is a very basic, ontological, assumption about how reality is constituted that express itself in a variety of ways: from the way in which we conceive what constitutes accurate knowledge to the way in which we conceive politics.

The lens through which I look at this problematic is the relations between modern institutions (from science to government) and the world that emerge from Aboriginal peoples’ experiences and practices. The guiding insight here is that in many Aboriginal peoples’ experiences and practices we can see the examples of the World Social Forum Slogan “Another World is Possible". In this sense, working with and learning from Aboriginal traditions opens up an avenue to address in unsuspected ways the challenges that we are facing nowadays from social turmoil to the environmental crises. At the same time I am very concerned with not being misinterpreted as a ‘romantic’ that offers an idealized example of Aboriginal peoples as the panacea to all the problems. Rather the point is to rescue from imposed invisibility the idea that there are other ways of existing that are viable while at the same time showing how those ways of existing struggle hard in the face of an encroaching modernity that cannot tolerate anything that differs from itself.

I am currently working on a research project that is under way in partnership with the Innu Nation Environment Office and the Innu-run Tshikapisk Foundation. The project, entitled , focuses on conflicts that emerge between Innu hunters and governmental conservation agencies as the parties seek to enact their own notions of caring for what Euro-Canadians call caribou and the Innu atîku. The project unexpectedly became of extreme importance when in January 2013 the government of Newfoundland and Labrador established a total ban on the hunting of caribou and the Innu Nation refused to accept it. The events are still unfolding and we are seeking to contribute to its resolution mobilizing the knowledge already gained through the research.

I was also involved in a research project in partnership with NunatuKavut Council (the organization of the Inuit of Southern Labrador, formerly known as Inuit-Métis) within the framework of a Community University Research Alliance (CURA) entitled lead by Dr. Lisa Rankin and for which I was a co-applicant. The alliance involves a five-year multidisciplinary and collaborative study of the history of the Inuit of Southern Labrador. My own project within the alliance, funded in 2010 through a SSHRC Public Outreach and Dissemination Grant, consisted in working with both researchers and community members to produce a documentary that while informed by the research results also addressed a key concern of the community: the perception that part of the public have of them. Through veiled or not so veiled commentaries and attitudes, the Inuit of Southern Labrador often have to confront the suspicion that their claims of Aboriginality, and the ‘life projects’ associated with it, are somehow spurious. To a large extent this has been helped by a strongly racialized conception of identity that tends to associate a deviation from phenotypically based stereotypes with a ‘watering down’ of Aboriginality (i.e., you don’t look like an Inuit, you cannot be Inuit). The documentary then addresses this problematic by querying what kind of thing is ‘identity’ and showing how the people of NunatuKavut have come to self-perceive and affirm their identity as Aboriginals, in part through the knowledge of their own history as passed down from generation to generation, and in part as a result of the archaeological, historical and genealogical research of the CURA project itself. The documentary was premiered in Labrador to great acclaim by community members, and was shown on CBC air television on the summer of 2013.

In Paraguay I conducted a collaborative research project with the Yshiro federation Unión de las Comunidades Indígenas de la Nación Yshir (UCINY) with whom I have been working for over twenty years. The project funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and entitled sought: a) to articulate a common vision of what management of natural resources mean for the heterogeneous constituency of the Yshiro federation; and b) to articulate those visions with ongoing programs of conservation being promoted by governmental agencies in Yshiro territory. This project, tackled ontological differences in two spaces, the internal space of the Yshiro communities and the space of interaction between the Yshiro federation and non-indigenous governmental agencies. The project had various results including: a) the successful articulation of a strategic plan of action for the Yshiro federation backed by a thorough process of community consultations; b) the establishment of a partnership between UCINY and an environmental NGO that have purchased (and thus recovered from private owners) tracks of land in Yshiro territory; and c) the establishment of UCINY as a legitimate interlocutor to the Paraguayan government for all matters related to environmental conservation in their traditional territories.

Ph.D. Dissertations

Poirier, Claire (2018). Hunting Buffalo Under the Ground: Encounters in Heritage Management.

M.A. Theses

Osmond, Jazpyn (2020). When You Can’t Unearth the Covered Up: Archaeology and the Memorialization of Mount Cashel Orphanage (co-supervised with Dr. Oscar Moro Abadía).

Recent Publications
  • 2013 Sub-plenary keynote speaker, “When Worldings Meet and Matters of Concern Run out of Esteem,” Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (UK) annual meeting, London, September 3-7.
  • 2013 Guest speaker at the Noted Scholars Lecture Series, “Caring for Caribou/Killing Atikuat: The Common World and Radical Alterity” Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, September 25th.
  • 2013 Guest Speaker at the Department of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego, “Beyond Reasonable Politics”, October 21st.
  • 2013 Panelist in round table “The Politics of Ontology,” American Anthropological Association annual meeting, Chicago, November 20-24.
  • 2013 Organizer and discussant in session “Relational Entanglements: Reconfiguring Notions of Sentience” CASCA Annual Meeting, Victoria, B.C., May 8-11.
  • 2012 Presenter in round table session “Design for the real world – But which world? What design? What real?” held at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting. San Francisco, November 13-18.
  • 2012 Discussant of the panel session “Refiguring Borders: Knowledge, Nature and the Production of Commodities,”American Anthropological Association annual meeting. San Francisco, November 13-18.
  • 2012 Discussant in Wenner Gren Colloquium “Engaging Resources: New Anthropological Perspectives on Natural Resource Environments.”Balsillie School of International Affairs, Waterloo, Ontario. April 12-14.
  • 2011 Discussant of the panel session “A deluge of Ontologies: Vestiges, Traces and Entanglement,” American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Montreal, November 16-20.
  • 2011 Guest speaker in the Annual Lecture in Contemporary Anthropology: Notes Towards a Political Ontology of ‘Environmental’ Conflicts, Department of Anthropology, Wilfred Laurier University, Waterloo, March 22.
  • 2011 “Refracting Baroque Sensibilities Through the Yrmo”. Presented at the workshop Baroque as Empirical Sensibility, Centre for Research in Socio-cultural Change, Manchester, June 13-16.
  • 2010 Invited Guest Speaker for the Mellon Foundation’s Sawyer Seminar “Contested Ecologies,” University of Cape Town, South Africa, October 11-15.
  • 2009 Between Reciprocity and Representation: Leadership at the Hinge. Presented at the Canadian Anthropological Society (CASCA)/AES Annual Meeting, May 13-16, Vancouver, Canada.
  • 2008 The Threat of the Yrmo: The Political Ontology of a Sustainable Hunting Program, presented in the panel Nature Matters: Tracking the Cultural Politics of Nature and Difference, organizer Shubhra Gururani, CASCA Annual Meeting, May 7-10, Carleton University, Ottawa.
  • 2008 Europe and the People With Other Stories: Steps Towards a Political Ontology, presented in the Symposium on Relational Anthropology, organizer Michael Asch, January, 24-27, University of Victoria, B.C.
  • 2017 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant, “Territory Making as World Making. A participatory comparison of indigenous-state conflicts in Bolivia and Paraguay”, main applicant Dr. Cristina Rojas – Carleton University
  • 2016 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant, “Life Projects Under the Shadow of the (Good) Anthropocene.”
  • 2015 Bridge Fund, Memorial University, “Life Projects Under the Shadow of the Anthropocene”.
  • 2014 Canada Research Chair endowment (renewal) Canada Research Chair Program.
  • 2014 Atlantic Aboriginal Health Research Program, “Arts-Based HIV/AIDS education for Aboriginal Youth in Labrador” (Co-applicant with Rachel Landy)
  • 2014 Fonds de la recherche du Quebec, Environments Autochtones, heritage culturel dans les Ameriques. (Sub-grant from McGill University)
  • 2011 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Standard Research Grant, “The Political Ontology of Caring for Non-Humans.”
  • 2010 Canada Foundation for Innovation and VP Office of Research, Memorial University grant for Infrastructure component of the project“Aboriginal Peoples’ Life Projects and Development.”
  • 2010 Public Outreach and Dissemination Grant, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Co-Applicant (Dr. Lisa Rankin, main applicant).
  • 2010 Grant for Workshop “Social Sciences and the Pluriverse,” Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
  • 2009 Canada Research Chair endowment, Canada Research Chairs Program.
  • 2009 Grant for Workshop, “Politics Beyond Politics,” Wenner-Gren Foundation, New York, USA. Co-applicant with Arturo Escobar and Marisol de la Cadena.
  • 2009 International Development Research Centre Canadian Partnerships Grant, “Co- Management of Natural Resources across Radical Differences: The Yshiro Case, Paraguay” Ottawa, Canada.
  • 2009 Industrial Research and Innovation Fund of Newfoundland Grant, “Aboriginal Peoples’ Life Projects and Development,” St. John’s, Canada.
  • 2009 Community University Research Alliance, for project “Understanding the past to build the future”, co-applicant. Dr. Lisa Rankin (main applicant).
  • 2008 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Standard Research Grant, “The Anthropology of Ontological Conflicts,” Ottawa, Canada.