Chapter in The Concept of Indigenous Peoples in Asia (Erni ed. 2008)

“Indigenous Peoples” in International Law

A Constructivist Approach to the Asian Controversy

Benedict Kingsbury

Read PDFRead PDF
The concept of indigenous peoples has not only been hotly debated within academic circles over the past two decades, it has been met with skepticism if not outright rejection among representatives of governments, especially in Asia and Africa. In Asia, this has lead to what has been termed “the Asian controversy”, a controversy that is still far from being resolved, even though most Asian governments have voted in favour of the adoption of the Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples by United Nations’ General Assembly in September 2007. The increasing recognition of the concept in international law and by international organizations and some national governments leads to a situation in which it is unavoidable to address the problem of identifying the people to whom the respective laws and policies apply. This book does not intend to dwell or expand on the controversy on the applicability of the concept to Asia. Its point of departure is the fact that more and more groups in Asia identify themselves as indigenous peoples, and its ultimate purpose is to provide assistance in addressing the practical question of how the concept of indigenous peoples can be applied in the particular context of Asian nations. This is done by means of a compilation of key articles, both previously published and unpublished, which directly or indirectly address the issue from historical, anthropological, legal and indigenous activists’ perspectives, and at international, regional, national and local levels. The articles compiled are meant to be resources which the reader can draw on in forming an opinion relevant for the specific context he or she may be working in.