Viviane Weitzner

Visiting Professor

Degrees:PhD (hons) Social Anthropology (Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social - CIESAS – CDMX); Master’s in Natural Resources Managament (University of Manitoba); BA (first class hons) English Literature (McGill University); BA (summa cum laude) German Literature (Ottawa University).
Phone:(819) 664-6089
Office:Room 2128
Dunton Tower

For over 20 years, I have had the privilege of accompanying and supporting Indigenous and Afro-Descendant peoples in the Americas – from the Arctic to the Tropics – in their collective life projects and strategies for territorial defence. I use my skills as an award-winning legal anthropologist, researcher and writer – and as a translator between worlds – to open up possibilities for transformative change. And at a time when “our house is on fire” (Greta Thunberg), “I can’t breathe” (George Floyd) and when the global COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc with day-to-day life everywhere, I find ever more motivation in my work accompanying communities to pave pathways towards social and environmental justice, respectful and peaceful relations, self-determination and “a world where many worlds fit.”

As a professor, I intertwine my activist and applied approach with theoretical dialogue. I draw on novel sources that go beyond the written form, and that are inclusive of diverse perspectives often marginalized in northern academia. I bring into the classroom examples and analysis from my own fieldwork and engagement with the literature on decolonial activist research, legal pluralism, Indigenous and Afro-Descendant rights, and social and environmental/climate justice.

I am affiliated with McGill University as an Adjunct Professor, Department of Anthropology; and as Senior Program Advisor of the Centre for Indigenous Conservation and Development Alternatives (CICADA), where I co-lead the research axis on “Indigenous Law, Indigenous Rights and Interlegalities.” I also provide policy advice to the UK-based Forest Peoples Programme, specifically on issues around Business and Human Rights and Legal Support. I am a former Senior Researcher, Governance and Natural Resources, of The North-South Institute (NSI), a think-tank based in Ottawa, where I led over ten years of programming on Indigenous and Afro-Descendant perspectives to decision-making about extractives projects affecting ancestral lands in the Americas. I am founder and principal researcher of Collective Matters.

Selected Publications

Forthcoming (2022):

& Marlin Mancilla. Activist anthropology “on the live edge” in Colombia: Conversations among collaborators. In Research Handbook on Law, Movements, and Social Change, S. Boutcher, C. Shdaimah and Michael Yarbrough, eds. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Guardia,Guardia!: Autonomies and territorial defense in the context of Colombia’s post Peace-Accord. In Indigenous Territorial Autonomy and Self-Government in the Diverse Americas, M. González, A. Burguete Cal y Mayor, J.  Mariman, P. Ortiz T. & R. Funaki (Eds). University of Calgary Press.


2021 “The Green Monster”: Perspectives and recommendations from the Black People of Northern Cauca regarding the sugar sector in Colombia. Policy Paper. Moreton-on-Marsh: Forest Peoples Programme and Palenke Alto Cauca – Proceso de Comunidades Negras.
2020 Alchemy in un mundo al revés: Gold, “Raw Law” and Indigenous Law in Colombia’s armed conflict. Cahiers des Amériques latines No. 94, Nouveaux défis du pluralisme juridique en Amérique latine.135-156
2019 “Uninvited ‘guests’: Harnessing free, prior and informed consent in Colombia.” In Free, Prior and Informed Consent Protocols as Instruments of Autonomy: Laying Foundations for Rights Based Engagement, C. Doyle, A Whitmore and H. Tugendhat eds., Köln, InFOE, ENIP. 48-65.
2019 Between panic and hope: Indigenous peoples, gold, violence(s) and FPIC in Colombia, through the lens of time. Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law 51 (1): 3-28.
2017 Nosotros Somos Estado”: Contested legalities in decision-making about extractives affecting ancestral territories in Colombia. Third World Quarterly 38(5) May: 1198-1214.

Machado, M., D. López Matta, M. M. Campo, A. Escobar and V. Weitzner. 2017. Weaving hope in ancestral black territories in Colombia: the reach and limitations of free, prior, and informed consultation and consent. Third World Quarterly 38(5) May: 1075-1091.

2011 Tipping the Power Balance—Making Free, Prior and Informed Consent Work: Lessons and policy directions from 10 years of action research on extractives with Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Peoples in the Americas. Ottawa, Canada: The North-South Institute.
2011 A House Undermined: Transforming relations between mining companies and Indigenous Peoples in the Americas. Policy Brief. Spring. Ottawa, Canada: The North-South Institute.