The Global Politics of Anti-Racism: A View from the Canal Zone

  • Citation: Herman, Rebecca. ‚ÄúThe Global Politics of Anti-Racism: A View from the Canal Zone.‚Äù The American Historical Review 125, no. 2 (2020): 460‚Äì86.
    • Topics:
    • Great Power Conflict
    • Keywords:
    • South America
    • Panama
    • anti-imperialism
    • race
    • labor
    • World War II
    • Cold War
    • U.S.‚ÄìLatin American relations
    • Canal Zone

During World War II, when Axis theories of racial supremacy became purported antonyms to Allied values, leaders of “non-white” countries gained a new framework for challenging a global order grounded in racialized notions of fitness for self-government. But the story is more complex than a sole focus on the international sphere allows, as those leaders who adopted anti-racist rhetoric to challenge their disadvantaged position in international politics were sometimes architects of racial hierarchy at home. This article examines how anti-racist struggles within Panama and the Canal Zone mapped onto the anti-imperialist project of a racist Panamanian state. Scholars of race and international relations have highlighted the challenges that anti-imperialist struggles posed to racialized criteria for international legitimacy, on the one hand, and the impact of geopolitical conflict on domestic struggles for racial equality, on the other. The view from the Canal Zone reveals the interplay between those two phenomena. Foregrounding Latin America in a history of the global politics of anti-racism precludes escape into binary visions of a world divided between colonizers and colonized, a racist Global North and an anti-racist Global South, or a tidy color line that splits humanity in two.

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