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Colonial to postcolonial ethics: Indian Ocean "belongers", 1668-2008

By Stephanie Jones


The essay begins with an exploration of how Henry Neville's fictional Isle of Pines (1668) plays through ideas of Arcadia, utopia, British colonial ambition, and ideas of belonging towards a critical commentary on government accountability under a constitutional rule of law. It then more fully traces how, nearly three and a half centuries later, the real islands closest to Neville's fictional isle - the Chagos Archipelago - are still being traversed by a similar interaction of narratives, and remain the site of a highly fraught constitutional debate on the legality of British executive action. <br/><br/>The Chagossian Islanders were expelled by the British government in the 1960s in order to satisfy a lease agreement with the United States government, which required the 'uninhabited' islands for the establishment of a military base. In their battle to have their expulsion declared illegal, exiled Chagossians challenged the scope of the government's prerogative powers when dealing with colonial lands and subjects. <br/><br/>This essay argues that the line of UK judgments on the Chagos (2000, 2006, 2007 and dissenting judgments of 2008) crucially relies on a half-subdued but at times lyrical, legally open and provocative evocation of what it means to be a 'belonger' of a place. Through a consideration of the legislative histories of this word; through scrutiny of its indeterminate relationship to notions of citizenship, indigeneity, nationality and the language of 'rights'; and through an engagement with broader cultural narratives of belonging, the essay moves towards a valuing of the potential of public law to lend both ethically nuanced and practical meaning to terms of belonging

Topics: K1, BJ, JV
Year: 2009
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Provided by: e-Prints Soton
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