Almost Citizens: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Constitution, and Empire

Sam Erman. Forthcoming from Cambridge University Press in November 2018.

Almost Citizens lays out the tragic story of how the United States denied Puerto Ricans full citizenship following annexation of the island in 1898. As America became an overseas empire, a handful of remarkable Puerto Ricans debated with US legislators, presidents, judges, and others over who was a citizen and what citizenship meant. This struggle caused a fundamental shift in constitution law: away from the post-Civil War regime of citizenship, rights, and statehood and toward doctrines that accommodated racist imperial governance. Erman’s gripping account shows how, in the wake of the Spanish-American War, administrators, lawmakers, and presidents together with judges deployed creativity and ambiguity to transform constitutional meaning for a quarter of a century. The result is a history in which the United States and Latin America, Reconstruction and empire, and law and bureaucracy intertwine.

About the Author:

Sam Erman is an Assistant Professor of Law at the USC Gould School of Law. He came to USC from the Smithsonian Institution, where he was a postdoctoral fellow in Latino studies. Erman’s primary areas of research include the history of Puerto Rico and its relations with the United States. His dissertation, Puerto Rico and the Constitution: Struggles around Status and Governance in a New Empire, 1898-1925 examines closely the United States’ promise of citizenship to Puerto Rico.

Prior to his fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution, Erman was a Raoul-Berger-Mark DeWolfe Howe Legal History Fellow at Harvard Law School. He clerked for Judge John Paul Stevens and Judge Anthony M. Kennedy of the United States Supreme Court and Judge Merrick B. Garland of the United States Court of Appeals. He received his JD from the University of Michigan Law School, summa cum laude, and his PhD in American Culture from the University of Michigan. He completed his AB in English at Harvard College, cum laude.

You can read a longer bio of Professor Erman on the USC website here.

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