Seeing like a Circle: Perspectives on the Field from a Dialogue on Urban Aboriginal Economic Development

Charles L Horn, Greg Halseth


Since the early 1970s, Aboriginal communities, policy analysts, and researchers have constructed “urban Aboriginal economic development” as both a domain of strategic intervention and a field of tactical contestation. An integral part of this project has been the creation of a body of academic knowledge about urban Aboriginal peoples and their relationship to the economy. This article surveys the current state of knowledge about urban Aboriginal economic development, identifying strengths and gaps in our understanding of this topic, arguing that unlike the policy and program domains, academic knowledge is characterized by its refracted, indirect nature. The analysis is informed by the results of a multi-year dialogue process on urban economic development between Aboriginal peoples, researchers, and policy analysts. In response to the limitations identified in the existing literature, we suggest two supplemental approaches: place-based economics, and new regionalism.


urban aboriginal communities; economic development; aboriginal policy;

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Support: Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada