Dr. Mario Blaser
Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Studies
Examining the anthropology of ontological conflicts (different ways of conceptualizing what constitutes reality) by linking it with the challenges of articulating life projects.
Dr. Blaser's research on Aboriginal peoples, life projects and ontological conflicts is relevant for Aboriginal communities around the world as well as local concerns involving Innu and the Inuit self-governance.
Aboriginal Peoples: The misconceptions of development
Aboriginal peoples across the Americas and beyond have struggled and continue to struggle to re-gain and assert their right to self-government.
Self-government for Aboriginal communities often involves a desire to improve their living conditions and achieve their own visions of a good life. From the perspective of the enveloping societies’ institutions and wider public this implies that Aboriginal communities seek to achieve ‘development.’ However, this concept often leads to misrecognizing the goals many Aboriginal communities seek with self-government, and this has dire consequences as the concept of development is often associated with value-laden notions such as technological progress, the accumulation of wealth, and the control of nature. These notions may not correlate or even be compatible with Aboriginal notions of improved living conditions and a good life.
Dr. Blaser’s research builds on a series of insights gained through research and collaboration with colleagues and Aboriginal leaders from North and South America. From this collaboration came the concept of ‘life projects’. The guiding hypothesis of his research is that ontological conflicts, or different ways of conceptualizing what constitutes reality, are central to the difficulties Aboriginal peoples face when trying to articulate and pursue their life projects.
In contrast to development, the concept of life projects refers to visions of a good life that are grounded in the particular experiences (historical, ecological and spiritual) of particular peoples in particular places, without assuming that they have universal validity. As Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Studies, Dr. Blaser will work with communities to explore Aboriginal’s life projects, as well as the obstacles that ontological differences pose to the pursuit of these goals.