Guayaquil Antiguo and Cacao Capitalism during the Long 19th Century: On the Peripheral Origins of Planetary Urbanization

Robert P. Fenton

Major Professor: Nancy W Hanrahan, PhD, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Members: Johanna Bockman, Rashmi Sadana

Research Hall, #161
November 07, 2019, 12:00 PM to 02:00 PM

Abstract:

This dissertation examines the link between agricultural commodity production, the production of urban space, the uneven environmental impacts of development, and the shifting configuration of the world economy through the lens of coastal Ecuador and Guayaquil’s experiences with cacao capitalism from 1760 to 1930. Framed through novel debates touching upon peripheral urbanization, agricultural capitalism, and political ecology, my work explores the valorization of “rural” land as articulated by the city-centered bourgeoisie in Guayaquil. As cacao prices rose, banks and capitalists quickly extended capital investment into the tropical countryside, amplifying an uneven political economic circuit sutured by overlapping and conflicting cultural practices filtering through Guayaquil. Class and racial tensions, mediated by the competing categories of the “tropical” and the “modern,” expressed how these unequal practices materialized in this extended urban geography. Concurrently, I investigate the solidification of the discursive construct of Guayaquil Antiguo, the coastal bourgeoisie’s urban imaginary regulating and reacting to social changes in Guayaquil as cacao capitalism collapsed during the 1920s. Using qualitative and quantitative archival methods, I recreate Guayaquil’s historical urbanization by analyzing travel narratives, city guides, municipal reports, newspapers, banking records, and many other sources, tracking Guayaquil’s planetary urbanization in order to grasp the long-history of peripheral urban political ecology and economy. My main theoretical contribution to urban and global sociology centers on how I trace the historical develop of Guayaquil as an integrated network of value production and circulation expanding urbanization through the countryside, as a case study outlining the structural constraints of peripheral capitalism while underscoring the agencies of local actors in negotiating their global development.