Plants, Insects, and the Biological Management of American Empire: Tropical Agriculture in Early Twentieth-Century Hawai’i

Lecture Description

When officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s experiment station in Honolulu and the territorial government’s Board of Commissioners of Agriculture and Forestry contemplated the agricultural tasks that they faced, they sought nothing less than wholesale biological management of the islands. Irrigation, land management, and forest preservation aimed at regulating the islands’ water supply. Quarantine and inspection regimes sought to contain the threat of invasive species. When unwanted insect travelers thwarted human oversight, the USDA’s station deployed chemical means of control, while the territorial government’s Board of Commissioners of Agriculture and Forestry dispatched entomologists to distant places, particularly in other colonial regions of the world, to gather parasites that might combat insect pests. The different efforts to manage the island ecosystem in Hawai‘i reflected not just the biological basis of territorial rule, but also its embeddedness in intra-imperial, inter-imperial, and international relationships.

CATEGORIES

Agricultural

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