Photo - Valentin Clavé-Mercier

Valentin holds a B.A. in Political Studies and a M.A. in Political Analysis, both from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain). He is currently conducting a PhD as a CISRUL Early Stage Researcher at the University of Aberdeen, thanks to a Marie Skłodowska-Curie scholarship. His PhD project, supervised by Dr Trevor Stack and Dr Ritu Vij, is focused on the concept of indigenous sovereignty and more exactly on the use, mobilisation and materialisation of this notion by Māori in Aotearoa/New Zealand. This research draws on previous work and experience gathered during a three-year part-time research on indigenous identity politics and indigenous claims and struggles conducted at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

Throughout his academic journey, Valentin has usually found himself at a crossroads between several disciplines. Conducting qualitative research and fieldwork led him to incorporate anthropology and ethnography to his work, while his interest in power-space relations and political ideas drove him to cement himself in Political Geography and Political Theory. His early research was focused on urban studies, interrogating processes such as gentrification, globality production, urban entrepreneurship or right to the city and their consequences on local communities. Over the past few years, he has published and presented several papers on these topics and on indigenous sovereignty claims and movements. Across this work, Valentin has developed an ongoing interest in the intersection of political theory and political practice, currently focused on the analysis of notions of sovereignty, self-determination and decoloniality in indigenous movements.

In 2017, he was awarded an Erasmus+ mobility scholarship in order to spend three months working on indigenous rights and political struggles at La Trobe University, Melbourne (Australia) under the supervision of Dr. Julie Andrews. This fieldwork experience was a key moment in Valentin’s research process as direct contact with the studied political reality and actors constituted an important breakthrough and led to a thorough restructuring of his research project. During the academic year 2019-2020, he finds himself conducting fieldwork in Aotearoa/New Zealand as part of his PhD research. Throughout said fieldwork, he aims to engage with Māori political thought and practices as a way to open up new political terrains, possibilities and reflections about alternative/decolonial understandings and configurations of sovereignty.

Valentin has also been engaged as a social movement’s activist in Spain defending and promoting several social causes. He is a co-founder of Juventud Sin Futuro, a youth collective crucial in the Indignados Movement awakening; a co-founder of Gentrisaña, an anti-gentrification collective based in the Malasaña neighbourhood; and was a member of the housing rights movement called PAH and an activist of the grassroots social centre “Patio Maravillas” in Madrid.

Both these socio-political concerns and his experience in Melbourne are now cornerstones in his PhD research focus. Political geography and political theory intertwine in Valentin’s PhD research. His dissertation will interrogate the sovereignty concept in the light of indigenous conceptualizations and practices, in order to denaturalize the traditional Western conceptualization of sovereignty and to highlight and study such alternative understandings and practices. Through a dialogue with Māori politics of sovereignty, this research intends to reveal alternative modalities and practices of sovereignty, as well as new ways of articulating and thinking political arrangements that will contribute to the reflection and political practice around issues of decoloniality, plurality and self-determination.

Valentin’s research interests include:

  • Indigenous studies
  • Decolonial/Postcolonial studies
  • Political geography
  • Political theory
  • Social movements
  • Identity politics
  • Sovereignty studies

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research & Innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 754326.