Sovereignty, property, and indigeneity: the relationship between Aboriginal North America and the modern state in historical and geographical context

Scarth, David Todd (2013) Sovereignty, property, and indigeneity: the relationship between Aboriginal North America and the modern state in historical and geographical context. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

Accounting for indigenous forms of sovereignty poses difficult problems for the discipline of International Relations, which is framed by the story of the modern, territorial European state. Most attempts to conceptualize Aboriginal nations in the international system confirm the modern state as the benchmark for sovereignty. In this dissertation I address the problem of how to incorporate Aboriginal peoples into IR without granting the modern European state as the only legitimate form of sovereignty.

I proceed through an examination of key moments in the European colonization of the Americas, from first contact through the geographic isolation of indigenous peoples onto
reservations. In each case it is demonstrated that the assumption of “formal” sovereignty – based on recognition, and with insufficient regard for historical context – underpinning conventional IR accounts of colonialism is inadequate to theorize colonialism. I argue that colonialism is not a story of political-legal recognition (sovereignty), but of politicaleconomic social relations – specifically the appropriation of land (property).

My contribution to the discipline is two-fold. First, I contribute to a richer understanding of sovereignty. Establishing sovereignty over territory in the New World allowed the English (and then American) state to set the legal, political and cultural framework for the private acquisition of land. Second, rather than using indigenous nations only as a foil for modern sovereignty, or as victims in a narrative of colonial domination, I make the case
for incorporating the political agency of Indigenous communities into IR’s account of colonialism. Far from the passive victims implied by conventional IR, they were central to a dynamic history of resistance and compromise, and their interactions with Europeans shaped modern sovereignty in lasting ways.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology > GN301 Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology > GN406 Cultural traits, customs, and institutions > GN495.4 Societal groups, ethnocentrism, diplomacy, warfare, etc.
J Political Science > JC Political theory. The state. Theories of the state > JC327 Sovereignty
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2013 14:52
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2015 11:49
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/45251

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