Throughout the twentieth century, American historiography on the Panama Canal extolled scientific, engineering, and economic aspects of what historian Michael E. Donoghue calls “the most important overseas possession of the United States” (p. 1). The Panama Canal Zone, a ten-mile-wide territory under US control, bisected the small nation that it helped create. A concession serving US interests in return for US support of Panama's separation from Colombia, the Zone cemented US hegemony over the young, underpopulated state. In Borderland on the Isthmus: Race, Culture, and the Struggle for the Canal Zone, Donoghue challenges the triumphal place of the canal in the American popular imagination and extends our understanding of its colonial past. He demonstrates how individuals contested asymmetrical power relations imposed by state borders as they sought to shape everyday lives.

Boundaries between the Zone and Panama traversed unmarked jungle but...

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