JHI Circle of Fellows Spotlight—Dale Turner

November 16, 2022 by Sonja Johnston

Dale Turner (Ph.D. Philosophy, McGill University, 1997) is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Centre for Indigenous Studies at the University of Toronto. He joins the JHI in 2022-23 as our Distinguished Indigenous Faculty Research Fellow.

JHI: What are your main research interests?

DT: In terms of my research, I am mainly interested in how we can listen to Indigenous peoples “in and on their own terms” in the contemporary legal and political relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Canadian government. Indigenous peoples claim that their relationships to land are “spiritual” in nature, yet Indigenous traditional thought continues to be marginalized, or outright disrespected, in contemporary Canadian politics. I am interested in how we can better understand the concept of “Indigenous spirituality” – articulated in English – concept in Indigenous politics.

JHI: What project(s) are you working on at the JHI and why did you choose it (them)?

DT: This year, I am fortunate be working on a novel about an Anishinaabe boy who grows up to defend his community’s land claim case against the Canadian government. It is a work that weaves together Anishinaabe storytelling, the history of Western European political thought, and contemporary Indigenous politics. I think the novel format is a creative way to show that Indigenous ways of knowing the world can be put in conversation with the Western European philosophical tradition in respectful and meaningful ways. Indigenous ways of knowing and being are legitimate philosophical systems of thought that not only ground Indigenous law but also offer coherent and useful ways of thinking about our relationships to the world.

JHI: What are you hoping to experience this year as a JHI Fellow?

DT: Well, I hope to share my drafts with JHI fellows as the novel begins to take shape. I have never written a novel before and look forward to embracing the creative process involved in producing a, hopefully, good work of fiction.

JHI: Share something you read/watched/listened to recently that you enjoyed/were inspired by.

DT: I read Basil Johnston’s Ojibway Heritage alongside Soren Kierkegaard’s The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air, which, although they write from two very different spiritual traditions, they nonetheless share a remarkable family resemblance: human beings have an inherent need to listen to the natural world.

JHI: What is a fun fact about you?

DT: I am a citizen of three nations – Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Temagami First Nation – and I live in both Canada and England. Oh, and also, my sister and I were in the movie Slapshot.