The West Indies Federation, like the Confederación Antillana from the nineteenth century, was structured by a tension between the dream of a future Pan-Caribbean nation and the prospect of a sovereign archipelagic political body that would exceed the scope of the nation-state. Because of this tension, even if the vocabulary of “Caribbean nationalism” appears to determine debates about the drive to anticolonial sovereignty embedded in the project of federation, veritably “un-national” forms also abound in discourses around both federation projects. This essay highlights discursive forms pertaining to the West Indies Federation that often “pass” for nationalism while exceeding its bounds, arguing that these forms, ranging between an attachment to empire and the critique of empire, resist assimilation into nationalist frameworks.

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