Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Society for Cultural Anthropology
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
Since emancipation in 1834, the people of Barbuda have consistently refused to participate in any activities that might facilitate the buying or selling of land on their island. During independence negotiations in London in the 1970s, they rejected the private freehold practices of their sister island, Antigua. Some decades later, they declined a cadastral survey, which might have enabled the future sale of their land, preferring their own memories as a means of record-keeping. And, more recently, in September 2017, following the direct hit of a Category 5 hurricane, several Barbudans refused to cooperate with the Antiguan-led government’s order to evacuate, remaining, instead, comfortably ensconced in well-appointed caves by the coast and ensuring the unbroken presence of Barbudans on the island. Amidst these centuries of refusals, Barbudans have experienced extraordinary pressure to conform to a private property regime, a pressure that has intensified over the last year and half. In this paper, I seek to understand this history of refusal. What might these refusals be producing over the course of hundreds of years? Drawing from Audra Simpson's work on refusal and sovereignty and building, as well, on Nicholas Blomley's understanding of property as performance, I argue that refusal is fundamentally constitutive of Barbudan property. Indeed, to Barbudans, their communally-owned island is nothing if not refusal congealed over time, refusal that cites prior refusals, and refusal that has enrolled refusals elsewhere by others.