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‘Subject to control’: shifting geographies of race and labour in US sugar agroindustry, 1930–1950

[journal article]

Hollander, Gail M.

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Abstract This article analyses how processes of racialization and place making converged in south Florida as the region's sugar agroindustry shifted from a southern US to a Caribbean labour market. The article engages theoretically at the intersection of the literatures on the geographies of race and labour, paying particular attention to ideas about the role of the state in each. I argue that such an engagement not only enhances the collective analytical power of such approaches, but that it is also critical for understanding agroindustry labour practices in south Florida. The empirical materials used include historical documents, reports and publications of the US Government and the United States Sugar Corporation (USSC). The analysis shows how ideas of corporate paternalism and industrial managerialism promoted by USSC were melded to an agricultural enterprise embedded in the racism of the Jim Crow South and the history of plantation slavery. The contradictions between USSC's dependence on cheap labour disciplined by Jim Crow violence and its corporate paternalism would never be fully reconciled and ultimately would prove untenable. As a consequence, sugar industry investors in collaboration with state labour regulators reimagined the ideal cane worker, elaborating intraracial categories of black labour based on place of origin. As the geography of labour markets was rescaled to the international level, the primary mechanism of labour control shifted from Jim Crow to summary deportation of foreign black workers from the Caribbean. This study contributes to our understanding of how historic processes of racialization are bound together with the political and economic processes of regional agroindustrial development.
Document language English
Publication Year 2006
Page/Pages p. 266-292
Journal Cultural Geographies, 13 (2006) 2
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)