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Legal and Poetic Figurations of Wholeness in from unincorporated territory and the Insular Cases

From the book Symbolism 21

  • Stefanie Mueller


In this article, I analyze the role that the metaphor of ‘incorporation’ plays in the so-called Insular Cases, a series of lawsuits that the U.S. Supreme Court decided at the beginning of the twentieth century, and in contemporary poetry by Chamorro poet Craig Santos Perez. I argue that Perez’s multi-book series from unincorporated territory (2008-2017) explores the metaphor of incorporation and its legal and cultural implications specifically with regard to the notion of wholeness - of nation, of territory, and of the body politic. Perez’s poetry challenges the idea of wholeness as imagined in the Insular Cases and explores alternative forms of totality without totalitarianism, a kind of multiplicity and openendedness in totality. In this respect, poetry’s specific affordances come into play, as they allow Perez to challenge legal and political language precisely because they afford non-narrative and hence, for example, non-linear forms of symbolic representation. In this way, this article adds to our understanding of Perez’s oeuvre and to the formal affordances of non-narrative poetry with regards to law and culture and what insights they can offer us.

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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