Secessionism in Nevis: Why have tensions eased?

Jack Corbett, Jessica Byron-Reid

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Existing studies of secessionism focus predominantly on why these movements gain momentum and persist. A subset of work focuses on why secessionist tensions cease. We contribute to these latter studies by adapting the main theories developed to explain why secessionist agitation occurs, to account for abatement. We focus specifically on the island of Nevis in St Kitts and Nevis, a country that should be a “least likely” case for secession, given its small population, territory, and economy, yet has experienced secessionist agitation for much of the second half of the 20th century. Since the late 1990s, momentum for secession has subsided. We explain why by reference to rationalist, culturalist and institutionalist arguments. We use an in-depth case study method, drawing on a range of sources, that foregrounds equifinality and concatenation across more than a century of inter-island politics. The findings suggest that all three types of arguments have some explanatory value but each fall short of fully accounting for the ebb and flow of secessionist dynamics. The findings may be of particular interest to multi-island states and territories in the Caribbean. They also offer practical lessons about the importance of policies that promote sectoral integration, encourage sociological linkages, and provide scope for dynamic political settlements.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalIsland Studies Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024

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