Theories of sovereignty in the twentieth century are generally based on a teleological “out-of-Europe” narrative where the modern, centralized nation-state form gradually spread across the world to be the foundation of the international order. In this article, the author reflects on how the conceptualization of sovereignty may change if one begins a global account of modern sovereignty not from the heart of Western Europe but from the complex arrangements of “distributed sovereignty” that emerged in the Indian Ocean and other colonized territories from the eighteenth century onward. These arrangements were organized as multiple layers of dependency and provisional domination, captured well by Eric Beverley's term minor sovereignty. Thinking through sovereignty in a minor key allows us to see sovereignty less as a foundation of states and societies and more as a performative category, emerging in a dialectic between promises of order, prosperity, and law, and the realities of violent domination and occupation.

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