Travelogues: The Ethnographic Foundations of Orthodox International Theory

  • J. Marshall Beier


The near-complete neglect of Indigenous peoples by International Relations is a loose thread that now deserves a few more purposeful tugs. Critical reflection upon the sources of this lapse gives rise to some important insights into the concealed commitments that underwrite mainstream theory and exert considerable authority in defining and delimiting disciplinary problems, prospects, and possibilities. The origins of these conceptual predispositions and of the neglect of Indigenous peoples can be traced to the travelogues of the first Europeans in the Americas, the enduring influence of which in social contractarian thought recommends their treatment as foundational texts of the social sciences. This view highlights the relevance for International Relations of challenges raised against the veracity of these formative ethnographical accounts inasmuch as such reevaluations simultaneously call into serious question some of the most fundamental ontological commitments of orthodox international theory—commitments that have their conceptual origins in the travelogues. Significantly, the neglect of Indigenous peoples is inseparable from the not inconsiderable conceptual indebtedness of orthodox international theory to these earliest writings about the peoples of the Americas.


Indigenous People International Relation Ontological Commitment Political Order Northern Great Plain 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 3.
    A point of clarification is in order here: none of this is to say that orthodox commitments rule out the possibility of different forms of organization, only that non-state forms are not accepted as sources of order. For Hobbes, “composite bodies politic had not really left the ‘state of war’ behind, they were only quasistates” (Forsyth 1979: 205).Google Scholar
  2. 19.
    Bamforth cites a count of at least 486, noting that perhaps 50 additional skeletons remain in place (Bamforth 1994: 106). P. Willey and Thomas Emerson offer a different explanation for the imprecision of the count: “Before the remains could be excavated by the USD Archaeology Laboratory, the remains of nearly 50 individuals were looted from the bank” (Willey and Emerson 1993: 265).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© J. Marshall Beier 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Marshall Beier

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations