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THE PROPERTIES OF CITIZENS: A Caribbean Grammar of Conjugal Categories

  • Tracy Robinson (a1)

This paper considers how a taxonomy of conjugality—marriage, common-law marriage, and visiting relationships—emerged as a specialized vocabulary to apprehend and govern the postcolonial Caribbean. Although the metaphor of intersections does not fully capture the ways these categories relate to each other to produce social meaning, I employ an intersectional framework to offer a close reading of the routes through which these and other social differences and equivalences are produced as dimensions of citizenship in specific historical contexts, such as the period of decolonization and Caribbean nation-formation. In so doing, I illustrate how the categorization of intimate relationships codified a hierarchy based on intersections of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, and established rough moral boundaries for a heterosexual Caribbean nation. The lives of working class Black women animate the categorization. I show how by centering these women in intimate relationship codes their sexuality is contained and patriarchy naturalized. In this paper, I suggest that we should mark the role intersectionality plays in constituting categories of intimate association, explore how these categories shape sentiments about belonging, and articulate the social costs of their instantiations.

Corresponding author
Tracy Robinson, Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Kingston 7, Jamaica. Email:
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