Christina Duffy Ponsa

Constitutional Commentary, Forthcoming


This manuscript, a constitutional and international legal history of American empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, aims to recover the multiple, overlapping, and mutually constitutive traditions that shaped the legal landscape of empire in the Americas in a period of emergent U.S. hegemony. To that end, I examine the contributions of colonial elites to constitutional debates over the law governing relationships between imperial center and colonial periphery. Resisting the temptation to dismiss their efforts as mere collaboration, I instead seek to understand how these colonial subjects sought empowerment (for the colonies and in the process, yes, for themselves) through the language and practice of law. To the extent that they succeeded, they helped give shape to imperial constitutions; their failures reveal paths not taken, and shed light on imagined worlds now lost.

View the paper here: A Clash of Constitutionalisms: The United States in Cuba, 1898-1902