Institute of Historical Studies
Institute of Historical Studies

Talk: "Libertarian Noir: Oceans, Islands, and Exit from Decolonization to the Digital Age" by Raymond Craib, Cornell University (Agency and Action: Chapters in Socialist and Collectivist History)

Thu, February 6, 2020 | GAR 4.100

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

This presentation is part of a book-in-progress on the history of efforts, dating from roughly 1960 to the present,  to create libertarian autonomous zones and territorialized forms of private governance in a world still structured around nation-state sovereignty. These exit efforts include those of Michael Oliver who sought to establish a private state in decolonizing areas such as the Abaco archipelago in the Bahamas and the island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu in the 1970s; those of the San Francisco-based Seasteading Institute, founded in 2008 by Patri Friedman, the grandson of economist Milton Friedman, with seed money from Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel (who has long advocated for libertarians to “find an escape from politics in all its forms” by colonizing cyberspace, outer space and the ocean); and the varied efforts to create private start-up cities and autonomous zones in Honduras under the auspices of a shifting and uneasy alliance of Honduran elites, libertarian techno-entrepreneurs, and a number of former Reagan administration officials who worked in his office of Central American affairs. As well as exploring the histories of how such projects came to be, my work explores the implications of such projects for democratic politics and sovereignty. Long marginalized to either the realm of science fiction or soldier-of-fortune adventurism, such projects are now coming to fruition with major policy implications for nation-states, their citizenries, and democratic politics more broadly.

Raymond Craib is a professor of History at Cornell University. He is the author of Cartographic Mexico: A History of State Fixations and Fugitive Landscapes (Duke University Press, 2004) and The Cry of the Renegade: Politics and Poetry in Interwar Chile (Oxford University Press, 2016). He is currently completing a book on libertarian exit projects in the 20th and 21st centuries. Read more about his work at:

Free and open to the public. Please RSVP to to reserve your seat. The event is part of the Institute's 2019-2020 series on "Agency and Action: Chapters in Socialist and Collectivist History."

Sponsored by: Institute for Historical Studies in the Department of History

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