In the Post-Colonial Waiting Room: How Overseas Countries and Territories Play Games with the Norm of Sovereignty

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Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Ulrik Pram Gad

This chapter investigates this puzzle of choosing non-sovereignty in a postcolonial setting. Historically, the question of freedom from imperial hegemony has been linked to how Western colonialism involved keeping the colonized in ‘the waiting room of history’ by insisting that they were not yet ready for sovereignty. It explores a number of European overseas countries and territories. More specifically, it focuses on French dependencies in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and North Atlantic Greenland constitutionally connected to Denmark. The immediate aim of anti-colonial struggles was to make the colonizers leave so that the colonized people could decide for themselves. Many anti-imperial struggles settled for nation-states each acquiring a separate, formal sovereignty-based international status. More recent versions of postcolonialism, inspired by poststructuralism and critical constructivism, have aimed at accounting for ways of realizing agency, which escape, first, imperial submission, and second, norms of an international society based on sovereignty. Instead of representing a rejection of sovereignty, the EU overseas countries and territories that remain under their metropole’s formal authority rearticulate sovereignty. As this chapter demonstrates, a universalizing European discourse on a universal norm for how to organize community and authority as a sovereign state makes a range of postcolonial choices possible, which both constructivist and some postcolonial thinking fail to fully acknowledge. A number of overseas territories take alternative routes to agency; not by resisting the norm of sovereignty - but by creatively articulating it beyond its claim to represent an 'either/or' distinction. The chapter demonstrates that territories not formally decolonized may very well perform a postcolonial agency, which tampers with the sovereignty norm.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAgainst International Relations Norms
EditorsCharlotte Epstein
Place of PublicationLondon; N.Y.
Publication date2017
ISBN (Print)9781138955981
ISBN (Electronic)9781315665955
Publication statusPublished - 2017
SeriesWorlding Beyond the West

ID: 173109362