Bruce Granville Miller

I first met Bruce at the 1993 CASCA conference held at York University.  We found ourselves part of a panel of individually volunteered papers.  My own paper was called something like Discipline and Punish (an anti-Foucaultian ripoff of Foucault) and was focussed on the virulent racism of white working class fishermen in BC. After our session Bruce suggested we grab a coffee and we spent several hours talking about Indigenous related research in BC.

I was intrigued by the work that Bruce was doing with what was a then new UBC graduate fieldschool being developed in collaboration with the Sto:lo Nation who reside along the Fraser River from about Hope westward near the mouth of the river. It seemed like an exciting hands on kind of teaching that made a lot of sense.  Later, when I was hired by UBC to a faculty position, I joined Bruce as a co-instructor of the field school for three years.  It was a great way to get one’s feet wet in meaningful field work, develop a strong professional relationship with alike minded colleague, and provide some awesome learning experiences for our graduate students.

Bruce is a recognized scholar of legal anthropology as it pertains to Indigenous peoples, specifically the Coast Salish communities in the US and Canada.  His first book, The Problem of Justice (part of the Fourth World Rising book series edited by Gerald Sider), delves into ethnographic case studies of Indigenous Nations enacting and engaging with internal and state imposed justice systems. His second book, Invisible Indigenes, Bruce extends his concern with the application of justice to the ways in which the politics of legal recognition intersects with histories of colonialism, application of colonial law, and attempts to reconcile with Indigenous legal frameworks.  Bruce’s third book, Oral Histories on Trial, draws upon Bruce’s extensive experience writing expert opinions for Indigenous litigation. It’s an impressive book that speaks to both anthropologists and lawyers.


Make it real – an Indigenous take on research

Over the years I have had the opportunity to speak around UBC on matters of Indigenous research. In each of these talks I discuss the critical importance of standing with Indigenous peoples.  By this I mean don’t turn us into the objects of your gaze but rather work with us and do what you are best able to do study your own society.  Too often settler researchers use our Indigenous communities as laboratories to test their ideas. Worse yet they use our ideas, histories, actions as data sets to input into their own visions of the world.

At a recent anthropology conference I heard researchers who, almost as an aside, described the situations of state interference into the lives of Indigenous peoples they were working with. These were asides as the primary focus of the researcher was the lives and beliefs of the Indigenous communities. The opportunity to study the state, its functionaries,  and it’s mercenaries should not be overlooked.  Settler researchers who wish to act as allies should study other settlers and the way settlers infringe upon Indigenous peoples’ lives.  The time for studying us is long past.

Here are three talks that highlight some of the issues I find central to a respectful anthropological research.

Respectful research in a colonial context.

Reflections on identity: does it matter who I am, who you are, when we do research?

Meditations on research and responsibility.