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Beyond the Big DitchPolitics, Ecology, and Infrastructure at the Panama Canal$
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Ashley Carse

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262028110

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262028110.001.0001

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The World United, Panama Divided

The World United, Panama Divided

10 (p.167) The World United, Panama Divided
Beyond the Big Ditch

Ashley Carse

The MIT Press

This chapter juxtaposes interoceanic water transportationthrough the Panama Canal withnational road transportationin Panama. For many residents ofthe country’s transit zone, getting aroundtakes an inordinate amount of time, money, and energy. The juxtaposition of global flow and regional friction in Panama’s transit zone runs deeper than irony, for both are outcomes of how networked infrastructures are built, managed, and maintained. The history of Panama’sTransístmica (transisthmian highway) illustrates this point. As traffic through the canal increasedduring the twentieth century, the Panamanian governmentembarked on a territorial nation-building projectthat focused on roads and rural modernization. However, theUS government restricted Panama’s efforts to build an interoceanichighwaynear the canal. When the transisthmian highwaywas finally opened during the Second World War, it was, shockingly, the first and onlyinteroceanic land route across Panama—the so-called crossroads of the world—since the Spanish colonial road.

Keywords:   friction, global flow, highway construction, modernization, nation-building, networked infrastructures, roads, scale, Second World War, territory

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