Islands of SovereigntyHaitian Migration and the Borders of Empire

Islands of SovereigntyHaitian Migration and the Borders of Empire

Jeffrey S. Kahn

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780226587387

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book offers a new interpretation of the transformation of US borders during the late twentieth century and its implications for our understanding of the nation-state as a legal and political form. It does so by examining the immigration tribunals of South Florida, the Coast Guard vessels patrolling the northern Caribbean, and the camps of Guantanamo Bay through the lens of anthropological theory, political philosophy, and law. From this perspective, the book reveals how litigation concerning the fate of Haitian asylum seekers during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s gave birth to novel jurisdictional paradigms of offshore, maritime migration policing and asylum processing. Combining ethnography—in Haiti, at Guantanamo, and alongside US migration patrols in the Caribbean—with in-depth archival research, the book expounds a theory of liberal empire’s dynamic tensions and its racialized geographies of securitization. An innovative historical anthropology of the modern legal imagination, the book forces readers to reconsider the significance of the rise of the current US immigration border and its relation to broader shifts in the legal infrastructure of contemporary nation-states across the globe.