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We Take Care of Our Own: The Origins of Oligarchic Politics in St. Maarten


Jessica Vance Roitman ,

Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies, NL
About Jessica

Jessica Roitman is Researcher at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) working on Caribbean History. She was a fellow at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the recipient of The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) funded post-doctoral fellowship at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her main interests are comparative migration histories, the construction of identities and ethnicities, trans-nationality, and cross-cultural encounters. Some of her more recent publications are ‘Land of Hope and Dreams: Slavery and abolition in the Dutch Leeward islands, 1825-1865’, Slavery & Abolition 37 no. 1 (2016): 1-23; and (with Gert Oostindie) Dutch Atlantic Connections, 1680-1800: Linking Empires, Bridging Borders (Leiden: Brill, 2014).

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Wouter Veenendaal

Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies, NL
About Wouter

Wouter Veenendaal is a Postdoctoral Researcher at KITLV – Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies, Leiden, Netherlands. He has conducted fieldwork in five microstates around the globe, and has published on political competition, political participation, institutional legitimacy, decentralization, and foreign policies of small states. At present, he conducts research on politics, governance, and democracy in the non-sovereign Caribbean, with a specific focus on the Dutch Caribbean islands. His two most recent publications are ‘The Dutch Caribbean Municipalities in Comparative Perspective’, Island Studies Journal, 10(1), pp. 15-30; and (with Jack Corbett), ‘Why Small States Offer Important Answers to Large Questions’, Comparative Political Studies, 48(4), pp. 527-549.

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This paper investigates the origins, development, and consolidation of political oligarchy in the Caribbean island nation of St. Maarten. It investigates why oligarchies develop in small settings despite the democracy-stimulating tendencies of smallness posited by the academic literature. It offers an historical analysis of St. Maarten politics, and investigates how the smallness of St. Maarten has contributed to oligarchies on the island. The article analyses the political dynamics that buttress and sustain oligarchic rule in small island societies. St. Maarten is an interesting case study because it is typical of the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, including historically high levels of migration, and is understudied. Additionally, the island has experienced oligarchic politics for centuries, which makes St. Maarten a perfect case to study the link between smallness and oligarchy. Finally, because St. Maarten is non-sovereign, our analysis could yield insights into the effects of non-sovereignty on the formation of oligarchies.


Resumen: ‘Nos ocupamos de lo nuestro’: Los orígenes de la política oligárquica en Sint Maarten


Este artículo investiga los orígenes, el desarrollo y la consolidación de la oligarquía política en la nación insular caribeña de Sint Maarten. Analiza por qué las oligarquías se desarrollan en escenarios pequeños a pesar de que la tendencia, según la bibliografía académica, es que el tamaño pequeño de una jurisdicción estimule la democracia. Ofrece un análisis histórico de la política de Sint Maarten e investiga hasta qué punto las dimensiones pequeñas de Sint Maarten han contribuido a las oligarquías en la isla. El artículo profundiza en la dinámica política que refuerza y mantiene la oligarquía en sociedades insulares pequeñas. Sint Maarten es un estudio de caso interesante porque es característico de las islas del Caribe oriental, incluidos los niveles históricamente altos de migración, y porque es un tema que se ha estudiado poco. Además, la isla ha experimentado una política oligárquica durante siglos, debido a lo cual Sint Maarten es un caso perfecto para estudiar el vínculo entre el tamaño pequeño de la isla y la oligarquía. Por último, puesto que Sint Maarten no es una isla soberana, nuestro análisis podría ofrecer una visión de los efectos de la no soberanía en la formación de las oligarquías.

How to Cite: Roitman, J. V., & Veenendaal, W. (2016). We Take Care of Our Own: The Origins of Oligarchic Politics in St. Maarten. European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, (102), 69–88. DOI:
Published on 12 Oct 2016.
Peer Reviewed


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