An audience with King Adam Hemmings, a second-year political science and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations double major, begins with a firm handshake. Hemmings is perfectly polished, from his trimmed nails to the crisp lines of his suit. Every detail hints at how seriously he takes representing his state, which he is eager to discuss.
"I was talking with some of my good friends in England, where I'm originally from, and in 2005 we all started to question what a country really was," Hemmings said of his decision to form a new nation. "We decided, okay, let's start an experiment. Let's try to found a nation in England."
On June 4, 2005, Hemmings issued a declaration of independence. He founded Kemetia, a secessionist state operating on the terms of the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States: a permanent population, a defined territory, and a government with the capacity to enter into relations with other states.
170 voting citizens, 32 of whom attend the University of Chicago, populate Hemmings' state. Kemetia comprises various parts of the South of England, including Winchester. Its government is a constitutional monarchy that transformed Hemmings into King Adam. It's not just a figment of Hemmings' imagination: Jordan, Syria, Taiwan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo all recognize Kemetia, according to Hemmings.
Although most nations do not recognize the sovereignty micronations claim, this has not prevented leaders from shaking hands. In 1992, George Bush Sr. allegedly signed a non-aggression, mutual defense pact with the Kingdom of North Dumpling Island in New York, according to Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations. Although they cannot be found on most maps, many micronations demand respect, despite the questionable legality of their claims to sovereignty.
"I want to put power back in the hands of the people. I think that too often nowadays you have governments that really become representative dictatorships," said Hemmings, who recognizes the seeming contradiction between his title and beliefs. He argues that his position as king is "a unifying figurehead for the state, whereas...we use direct democracy as much as possible to make judgments on issues that really do affect people."
Creating and ruling Kemetia gives Hemmings a unique perspective in his classes. He currently takes Power, Identity, and Resistance, and he finds that he looks at the authors he studies in class, such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, differently than most students. "Honestly, when you are in a position of some power, and you have options of retaining that power, you want to retain it at all costs," said Hemmings. "I feel like I am more in the minds of these [authors] than other people might be."
Hemmings is right to be wary—his reign has already survived an attempted coup d'état led by a high-ranking insider, according to Hemmings. Eight days into Kemetia's history, Hemmings' assets were seized and he was stripped of his power for two weeks. He said he did manage "to turn it around by means which have to remain fairly secretive for legal reasons."
Kemetia accepts most people who fill out an application for citizenship, although its secessionist nature sometimes attracts violent fringe elements it wishes to avoid, according to Hemmings. Citizenship is free, though for a small fee, citizens can receive passports and other benefits. "There's an amusing, interesting element about being able to say 'Well, here's my passport from a country you've never heard of,'" said Hemmings.
Hemmings' rule may not last forever. Each year, the parliament and judicial branch of Kemetia review the King as part of an annual popular referendum. The possibility of his removal from office does not worry Hemmings. "I think that if the nation can develop without me, well then, great. I've done what I've set out to do," said Hemmings. "I've created a body that is independent of any type of dictatorial power."