Indigeneity: An Historical Reflection on a Very European Idea

Event Start Date: February 09, 2023 4:00 PM
Event End Date: February 09, 2023 6:00 PM


Indigeneity: An Historical Reflection on a Very European Idea
lecture by Dr. Judith Friedlander
February 9, 2023 | 4:00 - 6:00 pm
Smathers Library, Room 100

About the talk

The word indigeneity may still not exist in mainstream English-language dictionaries, but the concept itself has deep historical roots in European religious, philosophical, and political thought — in foundational ideas about culture, land ownership, the nation-state, and ethnic minorities. After introducing the concept and discussing its significance in the current academic and political climate, the conference traces those roots back to the first century AD, to the days of the early Christians and their proselytizing mission, which, over the next 2,000 years, would transform the world. The talk then describes key moments in the history of Europe, its colonies, and former colonies, highlighting some of the major theological and philosophical debates that took place during the second half of the second millennium, debates that went on to shape indigenous policies for global institutions like the Catholic Church and the United Nations. These debates also shaped our understanding of indigeneity today, perhaps distracting us as well, the chapter concludes, from the social and economic challenges indigenous communities have faced for more than 500 years.

About Judith Friedlander

Judith Friedlander is Professor of Anthropology, Emerita. She retired from Hunter College of the City University of New York, in 2017. Between 1972 and 2017, she taught and served as an academic dean at SUNY, Purchase, Hunter College, and the New School for Social Research. She also taught at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and the University of Paris, 7.  Between 1993 and 2000, she was Dean of the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science at the New School (now known as NSSR), where she also occupied the Eberstadt Chair of Anthropology. In 2002, she returned to Hunter College where she had previously been dean of social sciences between 1990 and 1993, to serve as dean of arts and sciences.  After stepping down from her last administrative post in 2006, Friedlander taught Anthropology and worked as a special adviser to Hunter’s provost and president on a number of new academic initiatives, including the creation in 2010 of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute.

Friedlander has written extensively on questions of ethnic identity among indigenous peasants in Mexico and Jewish intellectuals in France and the United States. She has also contributed to debates about feminism and gender theory.  Among her publications, she is the author of Being Indian in Hueyapan, Vilna on the Seine: Jewish Intellectuals in France since 1968, and A Light in Dark Times: The New School for Social Research and Its University in Exile.


  • UF Center for Latin American Studies
  • UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere
  • UF American Indian and Indigenous Studies
  • UF Department of Anthropology