Greta Marchesi

Fall 2012

The global Great Depression of the early 20th century emerged through a complex of social changes, including international credit and commodity bubbles, labor migrations, and liberalized trade and property legislation. Not least among these, however, were changes in land use, particularly intensified and expanded commodity crop production. The period of the Great Depression, then, was marked not just by globalized unemployment and market collapse but also by widespread soil exhaustion and erosion. This dissertation research examines the subsequent international development of community-based soil conservation efforts in the early 1930s, examining the technical, legal, and discursive aspects of these reforms. Looking particularly at the cases of Mexico, Colombia, and the United States, it considers the ways that ideas about ecology and land use were intimately bound to progressive land, labor, and market reforms of the post-Depression period. I am interested not only in the ways that land and soil were formally enlisted in emerging notions of nationhood and indigeneity, but also how critical international conversations about property, and capitalism, and political community informed place-specific conservation efforts. Finally, I look at the displacement of these efforts in the 1940s and 1950s through a new international mode of politicized soil management, in particular the industrialized agricultural development programs of the US-funded Cold War-era Green