It is the idea of sovereignty as a problem and the region as a possible solution—something suggested to me by a judge at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)—that prompts this talk. And it is Yarimar Bonilla’s recent call to “unsettle sovereignty” (2017) that inspires its argument. Specifically, this talk examines a “landmark” case filed at the CCJ in 2012. The case involved a young Jamaican woman who, upon her arrival in Barbados, was intimately searched, detained, and deported. Following this experience, she sued the State of Barbados. In handling the matter, the CCJ, for the first time in its brief history, opted to hold the trial away from its seat in Trinidad & Tobago: a few days in Jamaica, a few days in Barbados, and concluding arguments back in Trinidad. From an ethnography of the Court’s movements across the Caribbean, the ephemerality of regionhood becomes apparent; it aligns law, land, and people fluidly and flexibly, allowing them to come together and disperse with a temporariness that contrasts with sovereignty’s seeming perpetuity. Ultimately, this talk considers the possibility that the alternative spatio-temporal presence of regionhood helps to unsettle the hegemony of sovereignty, with its rigid borders, defined citizenships, and laws linked closely to the land.
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