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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 Agricultural Possibilities of the Canal Zone

The Agricultural Possibilities of the Canal Zone

8 (p.131) The Agricultural Possibilities of the Canal Zone
Beyond the Big Ditch

Ashley Carse

The MIT Press

This chapter analyzes debates around agricultural development, race, and sanitation in the Panama Canal Zone. When the waterway opened, the Zone was largely rural and roadless. US canal administrators’ plans for the hundreds of square miles of territory not immediately necessary for transportation or residential purposes became a point of political tension. The Zone’s rural question—how to manage landscapes depopulated by the US government—had implications beyond land use, per se. Among Panamanians, it raised concerns about the scope of US ambitions on the isthmus. Were administrators simply operating a canal or constructing an autonomous imperial enclave? The question of howto use rural lands implied a secondquestion: Who, if anyone, shouldusethem? The chapter examines a Canal Zone program that permitted former canal laborers—primarily black West Indian migrants—to leaseland for farming. The contentious policy precipitated abanana boom in the enclave.

Keywords:   agricultural development, bananas, governance, imperialism, migrant laborers, land use policy, Panama Canal Zone, race and racism, sanitation and disease, territory

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