Projections 17: Planning Just Indigenous Futures, Challenging 21st-Century Empire

Urban planning has long distinguished itself from other applied fields (such as public policy and social work) through claiming a privileged relationship to the future. However, the planner’s toolbox towards this effort (e.g. visioning, scenario planning, computational modeling) are limited, and urban planning itself has had a fraught relationship with Indigenous communities. Meanwhile, Indigenous scholars and practitioners have done much to resist the logics of 21st-century empire, and to articulate, advance and realize just Indigenous futures and Indigenous futurities. 

For our upcoming volume of Projections: the Journal of the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, we ask: what can urban planning learn from Indigenous approaches to futuring, and how can urban planners support the envisioning and enactment of just Indigenous futures today? We center these questions along the following themes:

(1) Indigenous sovereignty movements
How are Indigenous sovereignty movements envisioning and enacting just Indigenous futures? What are the strategies, tactics, rhetorical frames and organizational infrastructures through which they execute their work? How do these movements navigate existing constraints in sharing information, accumulating resources and gaining political leverage, at what scale, and with what consequences? How are such movements tackling climate change, and what are the dynamics shaping their relationship (if any) to other actors involved in tackling environmental issues? 

(2) Role of professional planners
What are the dynamics shaping the relationship between professional planners and Indigenous sovereignty movements? What kinds of faculties (e.g. deep listening), principles (e.g. the Chamoru principle of inafa’maolek, the Hawaiian principles of pono or kuleana) and values (e.g. compassion) should professional planners align themselves with in order to be more closely aligned with Indigenous sovereignty movements? How can current organizational infrastructures be leveraged, reconfigured and/or bolstered in order to increase meaningful engagement of professional planners in Indigenous sovereignty movements, especially in the domain of environmental planning?

(3) Planning for just futures 
What can planners learn from Indigenous sovereignty movements in terms of how they should approach the envisioning and enactment of Indigenous just futures, and just futures more generally? How might the relationship between settlers, Indigenous peoples, the settler-colonial state and the environment be reconfigured in such futures? 


Read the full volume of Planning Just Indigenous Futures