Yarimar Bonilla

Non-Sovereign Futures

French Caribbean Politics in the Wake of Disenchantment

University of Chicago Press 2015

New Books in AnthropologyNew Books in Caribbean StudiesNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in French StudiesNew Books in Latin American StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network December 10, 2015 Alejandra Bronfman

As overseas departments of France, the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique are frequently described as anomalies within the postcolonial Caribbean. Yet in reality, as...

As overseas departments of France, the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique are frequently described as anomalies within the postcolonial Caribbean. Yet in reality, as Yarimar Bonilla argues in her new book Non-Sovereign Futures: French Caribbean Politics in the Wake of Disenchantment (University of Chicago Press, 2015), the majority of Caribbean states are in fact non-sovereign. Moreover, even for those nations that are nominally independent, their sovereignty is nonetheless continually compromised by the foreign influence that comes with globalization. Thus, the Caribbean as a whole is a region where non-sovereignty is the dominant political status, requiring alternative political frameworks that move beyond identifying sovereignty as the inevitable and necessary result of decolonization. Bonilla calls this process of imagining and testing out these new frameworks “non-sovereign politics.” Non-Sovereign Futures examines the emergence of non-sovereign politics through an ethnography of labor activists in Guadeloupe. Whereas union activists had explicitly nationalist agendas in the 1950s and 1960s, by the early 2000s, sovereignty was no longer the terrain on which activists made claims upon the state. Bonilla provides a compelling analysis of the ways that Guadeloupean labor activists disrupted island life through a series of labor and general strikes, engaged and shaped the historical legacies of slavery and emancipation, and transformed their own personal political selves. Though these activists frequently expressed disappointment with the results of these strikes, Bonilla insists that their true accomplishment was in imagining new possibilities for making claims upon the French state that were no longer bound to the unsatisfying question of sovereignty.