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A Region among States

Law and Non-sovereignty in the Caribbean

Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork at the Caribbean Court of Justice, A Region among States explores the possibility of constituting a region on a geopolitical and ideological terrain dominated by the nation-state.

How is it that a great swath of the independent, English-speaking Caribbean continues to accept the judicial oversight of their former colonizer via the British institution of the Privy Council? And what possibilities might the Caribbean Court of Justice—a judicial institution responsive to the region, not to any single nation—offer for untangling sovereignty and regionhood, law and modernity, and postcolonial Caribbean identity?
Joining the Court as an intern, Lee Cabatingan studied its work up close: she attended each court hearing and numerous staff meetings, served on committees, assisted with the organization of conferences, and helped prepare speeches and presentations for the judges. She now offers insight into not only how the Court positions itself vis-à-vis the Caribbean region and the world but also whether the Court—and, perhaps, the region itself as an overarching construct—might ever achieve a real measure of popular success. In their quest for an accepting, eager constituency, the Court is undertaking a project of extrajudicial region building that borrows from the toolbox of the nation-state. In each chapter, Cabatingan takes us into an analytical dimension familiar from studies of nation and state building—myth, territory, people, language, and brand—to help us understand not only the Court and its ambitions but also the regionalist project, beset as it is with false starts and disappointments, as a potential alternative to the sovereign state.

240 pages | 5 color plates, 10 halftones, 1 tables | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2023

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Law and Legal Studies: International Law


“This is an empathetic and rigorous anthropology of the CCJ. Sharply constructed and with flowing writing, Cabatingan’s ethnography brings together questions and approaches from postcolonial regionalism, legal anthropology, and Caribbean studies. Through eye-opening conversations with judges and throughout the court, interwoven with a careful study of media and archival material, she shows how the delicate balance between the work of adjudication and of political region making raises dilemmas that otherwise remain right below the surface.”

Naor Ben-Yehoyada, author of The Mediterranean Incarnate

“This fascinating study of the CCJ deftly mines the peripheries of the court’s work to show successfully how the court uses and reimagines the tools of statecraft in its central effort of promoting a region. The book’s rich analysis of the array of activities of and feelings about the CCJ is a great contribution to what we know about the complex work of new apex courts and scholarly debates about region-making projects in the Caribbean.”

Tracy Robinson, coeditor of Transitions in Caribbean Law

Table of Contents

Orientation: The Caribbean Court of Justice
1 Introduction
2 A Myth
3 A Territory
4 A People
5 A Language
6 A Brand
7 A Region
Appendix: Methods and Positionality

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