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A World History of Rubber: Empire, Industry, and the Everyday

A World History of Rubber: Empire, Industry, and the Everyday

Stephen L. Harp

ISBN: 978-1-118-93425-8 September 2015 Wiley-Blackwell 184 Pages




A World History of Rubber helps readers understand and gain new insights into the social and cultural contexts of global production and consumption, from the nineteenth century to today, through the fascinating story of one commodity.

  • Divides the coverage into themes of race, migration, and labor; gender on plantations and in factories; demand and everyday consumption; World Wars and nationalism; and resistance and independence
  • Highlights the interrelatedness of our world long before the age of globalization and the global social inequalities that persist today
  • Discusses key concepts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including imperialism, industrialization, racism, and inequality, through the lens of rubber
  • Provides an engaging and accessible narrative for all levels that is filled with archival research, illustrations, and maps

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Acknowledgments ix

Timeline xi

Global Rubber and Tire Companies xvii

Introduction: Why Rubber? 1

Global Connections 8

1 Race, Migration, and Labor 10

“Wild Rubber” and Early Industry 11

“Wild Rubber” and Empire 14

Plantations’ Progress: “Rationality and Efficiency” 17

Plantation Hierarchies 21

Race and Industry in the United States and Europe 29

2 Women and Gender on Plantations and in Factories 40

Gendering the Jungle and the Plantation 42

Asian Women on Plantations 44

European Women and Racism 48

The Colonizing Woman 50

Gendered Production in the United States and Europe 52

Rubber and Sex in Indochine 56

3 Demand and Everyday Consumption 61

Everyday Consumption on Southeast Asian Plantations 62

Class and Consumption in North America and Europe 64

Race and Consumption in Europe and North America 68

Gender and Consumption in Europe and North America 71

Gendering Reproduction 77

4 World Wars, Nationalism, and Imperialism 83

World War I 84

“See America First” on “Good Roads” 86

Flying for the Nation 88

Restricting Rubber in the Wake of War 90

American Assertions: Herbert Hoover and US Trade 91

Firestone and Friends 94

Firestone in Liberia 96

Germany: Colonies and Chemicals 99

World War II and the US Scramble for Rubber 102

Nazi Racism and Buna at Auschwitz 105

Imperialism and Nationalism in the Wake of World War II 107

5 Resistance and Independence 111

Plantations and Resistance 112

Global Economic Crisis and Plantation Labor 118

Success of the Smallholders 120

Plantations under the Japanese 124

Independence and Decolonization 126

United Rubber Workers 131

Conclusion: Forgetting and Remembering Rubber 137

Suggested Readings 142

Index 157