Multispecies Ruptures and the Emergence of a New Jamaican Agroecosystem, 1939-1960

Matthew Plishka, University of Pittsburgh

This paper explores how a series of flashpoints, both local and global, upended the multispecies assemblages that had been present in Jamaica through the early and mid twentieth centuries and altered/created new ones. I argue that the onset of World War II in 1939, the discovery of bauxite in 1942, and Hurricane Charlie in 1951 were watershed events for the island’s agroecosystem and resulted in the end of the Gros Michel era in Jamaica, a de-emphasizing of export agriculture in favor of industrial production, and the final blows to smallholders having a key role in export-agriculture production. Much like the previous chapters, it highlights how the interactions between smallholders, planters, and local officials with external and nonhuman forces shaped the island’s agricultural trajectory in the 1940s and 1950s. But rather than showing how a slow buildup of everyday interactions and decisions resulted in change, it points to three ruptures that fundamentally restructured the agroecosystem of the island. Leaders in agricultural industries and colonial officials used these ruptures to push for changes to Jamaica’s economic structures, leaving smallholders on the outside looking in of the resulting systems.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 264. Rationalizing Land Use II (20th Century)