in the Wake
of the Plantation
sovereignty, witnessing, repair
This book (Duke Press, 2019) probes some of the questions that often arise about state violence outside the context of active war: Why does the state “crack down” – on a movement or on individuals – when it does? When does a threat become unbearable and actionable? These questions raise others: What are the entanglements that matter? When do they matter? And what does sovereignty feel like? This project draws from ethnographic research conducted in Tivoli Gardens and Clarendon (among members of Claudius Henry’s International Peacemakers Association), as well as archival research on surveillance in the British and Jamaican colonial records and the U.S. State Department, to think through the dynamics of twentieth and early-21st century entanglements in Jamaica among colonial and nationalist governments, prominent local capitalists, and the transnational illicit trade in narcotics. More broadly, Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation is a story about the dissolution of (British) imperialism and the shifting vectors of (American) empire. It provides a vision into the complexities of interest among diverse and shifting stakeholders within a transnational analytic frame over time, as well as a foundational narrative for the forms of state violence and illicit entanglement we see in the contemporary moment. It proposes to take seriously the affective dimensions of sovereignty in relation to strategies of historically contextualized and racialized governance and endurance, and by doing so interrogate the relationships between romantic and revolutionary liberal political traditions. Finally, it seeks to develop a metanarrative about the practices and meanings surrounding ethnographic and historical archives.