Fitisemanu, the Insular Cases, and Territorial Autonomy
- January 23rd, 2023
- in Capstone Commentary
By: Emily Evans
The Insular Cases are a longstanding series of cases from the early 20th century concerning the status of U.S. territories and their inhabitants. These cases introduced the doctrine of territorial non-incorporation, which justified the ownership of the United States over acquired foreign territories without incorporating these territories and denying inhabitants their rights and equal protection under the law as U.S. citizens. Objectively, these cases were based on social Darwinist ideologies about the people indigenous to these territories, as they practiced vastly different cultures and were primarily non-white. The precedent set in these cases has allowed the United States to justify its 20th-century imperialism while perpetuating racist falsehoods about the non-white populations living in these unincorporated territories. It also permits the government to actively deny certain benefits to their inhabitants who have second-class status as U.S. citizens or do not have citizenship at all.