Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Cycles of Crisis and Adaptation: A Multispecies Political Ecology of Late-Colonial Jamaica, 1870-1960

Plishka, Matthew (2022) Cycles of Crisis and Adaptation: A Multispecies Political Ecology of Late-Colonial Jamaica, 1870-1960. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Download (2MB) | Preview


This dissertation explores the transformation of Jamaica’s political ecology in the late-colonial period. I analyze how multispecies assemblages of people, plants, and microbes affected and were affected by these changes. I focus on the lives of Afro-Jamaican small-scale farmers, colonial officials attempting to implement a vision in line with a technocratic ethos of “high imperialism,” plants such as bananas and sugar, and pathogens that infected these plants and threatened the livelihoods of those involved in their cultivation. It is a story of rural agriculture, of commodity extraction, the impacts of disease, and Imperialism all within the specific historical context of local, circum-Caribbean, and global events and processes.
Overall, I argue that it was the constant, daily interactions between Jamaican growers, officials, plants, and microbes that resulted in a near-continuous reshaping of late-colonial Jamaica’s political ecology. I particularly highlight the important role that Afro-Jamaican smallholders played in this process. These growers’ attempts to navigate ecological crisis, their interactions with colonial officials, and their experiences with plants and plant pathogens drove many of the transformations that took place over this period. I reveal the importance of the banana plant killing fungus known as Panama Disease to this period of the island’s history. The fungus’ spread, and the response of farmers and officials to its spread, drove many of the changes to the island’s political ecology. Finally, I reveal how the line between “vernacular” and “modern” agricultural practices is often blurred, especially in times of ecological crisis and in the absence of understanding the causes of the crisis.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Plishka, Matthewmrp98@pitt.edumrp980000-0001-7438-8333
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairPutnam,
Committee CoChairWarsh,
Committee MemberMostern,
Committee MemberSoluri,
Date: 6 June 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 6 April 2022
Approval Date: 6 June 2022
Submission Date: 6 April 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 273
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Caribbean, commodity, banana, Latin America, environmental history, West Indies, imperialism, disease
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2022 15:57
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2022 15:57


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item