Statelessness in the Caribbean: The Paradox of Belonging in a Postnational World

Statelessness in the Caribbean: The Paradox of Belonging in a Postnational World

Statelessness in the Caribbean: The Paradox of Belonging in a Postnational World

Statelessness in the Caribbean: The Paradox of Belonging in a Postnational World


Without citizenship from any country, more than 10 million people worldwide are unable to enjoy the rights, freedoms, and protections that citizens of a state take for granted. They are stateless and formally belong nowhere. The stateless typically face insurmountable obstacles in their ability to be self-determining agents and are vulnerable to a variety of harms, including neglect and exploitation. Through an analysis of statelessness in the Caribbean, Kristy A. Belton argues for the reconceptualization of statelessness as a form of forced displacement.

Belton argues that the stateless--those who are displaced in place--suffer similarly to those who are forcibly displaced, but unlike the latter, they are born and reside within the country that denies or deprives them of citizenship. She explains how the peculiar form of displacement experienced by the stateless often occurs under nonconflict and noncrisis conditions and within democratic regimes, all of which serve to make such people's plight less visible and consequently heightens their vulnerability. Statelessness in the Caribbean addresses a number of current issues including belonging, migration and forced displacement, the treatment and inclusion of the ethnic and racial "other," the application of international human rights law and doctrine to local contexts, and the ability of individuals to be self-determining agents who create the conditions of their own making.

Belton concludes that statelessness needs to be addressed as a matter of global distributive justice. Citizenship is not only a necessary good for an individual in a world carved into states but is also a human right and a status that should not be determined by states alone. In order to resolve their predicament, the stateless must have the right to choose to belong to the communities of their birth.


This book is about belonging in a world carved into states. It asks us to examine our taken for granted assumption that we all seamlessly fall into place as citizens of one state or another and that we are able to retain the citizenship we acquired at birth throughout our life. Millions of people around the world have no citizenship. They do not formally belong anywhere.

Take a moment and imagine what it must be like not to exist in the eyes of a state’s bureaucratic machinery, not to be protected by national laws, not to have access to—or the ability to exercise—the rights and freedoms that are bound up with a particular state’s citizenship. What must it be like to be physically present, to have tried to make a life in a place, yet to be rejected by the place you consider home? What must it be like to see others, born in the same place that you were, growing up in the same place that you did, be selfdetermining agents and take advantage of opportunities that come their way because they happen to have citizenship—a status that they hold through no merit or action on their part?

In essence, what is it like to be a noncitizen insider? To be displaced from belonging, even as your roots lie within the same land as the “citizens”?

I make no pretense to neutrality in this book: I believe that everyone has the right to belong to the community of her or his birth. I believe that the current international system of states that generates and perpetuates statelessness is unjust and I believe that the need to resolve statelessness is one of the greatest tasks and duties that we have in the twenty-first century. Before trying to convince the reader of these positions, however, it is important in a book about belonging and place identity to situate myself in this research project and note my particular subjectivities at the outset. As Ruth Arber reminds us, “We construct ourselves through the other and yet leave that . . .

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