Date of Award

5-6-2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Professor Charles Steffen

Second Advisor

Professor John T. Way

Third Advisor

Professor Hugh Hudson

Abstract

My dissertation “The Making of Mañana-Land” describes the creation of enclaves of agribusiness, tourism and militarism across the American Mediterranean, the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, expanding into the Pacific with the Panama Canal. Building on labor histories of the banana trade, most notably by Jason Colby, as well as histories of tropical tourism, most notably Catherine Cocks, it examines workers and tourists side-by-side, describing the racialization of labor and leisure.

Imagined as a timeless mañana-land, the American Mediterranean was the crucible of a radical modernity that prefigured the future of globalized corporate capitalism. The U.S. imperial state and the private empire of United Fruit, in cooperation with modernizing elites in Latin America and the U.S. South, expanded with public health campaigns to eradicate yellow fever, contain hookworm and malaria, and reporting hurricanes. Agribusiness corporations developed a rationalized approach to transportation, communication and administration. White managerial classes relied on the labor, skills and knowledge of non-white immigrant workers, including Black Jamaicans who brought banana planting to Central America, and Japanese and Mexicans in the citrus groves of Southern California. Vertical integration maximized corporate profits while slashing costs, making bananas and oranges cheap consumer staples and symbols of the abundance of capitalism, as trains and steamships that transported these fruits also carried growing numbers of wealthy white U.S. tourists.

Transnational labor migrations both created and undermined racial segregation. Afro-American migration, West Indian immigration and Mexican immigration altered the racial and cultural makeup of the U.S., creating Jazz Age subcultures and radicalized racial nationalisms. Racism against West Indians shaped nationalism in the Spanish Caribbean, opposing the corporate imperialism of United Fruit. Eugenics movements across the American Mediterranean claimed the sanitary legacy of public health campaigns against tropical diseases, advocating restrictions on non-white immigration, as well as more extreme eugenic measures, such as sterilization. By describing how capitalist globalization provoked backlashes against needed but unwanted immigrants, I will challenge ideas of globalization as a weakening the state, while drawing parallels with the contemporary rise of populist nationalism.

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