This essay examines the relationship between “autonomy” as practiced by the indigenous Zapatista communities of Chiapas, Mexico, and the Western juridical concept of sovereignty. By delineating the historical trajectory of the concept of sovereignty and its colonial origins, we attempt to highlight, in contrast, the radicality and innovation of the Zapatista concept of autonomy. Through an investigation of Zapatista political and territorial practices, we examine their efforts toward inverting the sovereign imperative—the relation of command obedience between sovereign and subject—as the basis of a new push toward decolonization and the construction of a different practice of power in which government commands by obeying.

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