Michael E. Donoghue’s historical study Borderland on the Isthmus: Race, Culture, and the Struggle for the Canal Zone exposes traditionally underrepresented issues in the Panama Canal Zone. The Panama Canal Zone, which encompasses the canal itself, a well-known trade route that splits Panama, also encompasses the surrounding area. This zone was under U.S. control from 1903 to 1979; the canal was returned to Panama in 1999. Donoghue’s book is impressive and particularly strong in its detail concerning themes of race and gender in the Panama Canal Zone.
With the feminization of labor that has occurred in recent years, it is vital to examine the interplay between labor, gender, and globalization. In the book Disposable Women and Other Myths of Global Capitalism, the human geographer and feminist Melissa W. Wright effectively argues that in today’s global economy, the myth that the third world woman1 is disposable is pervasive. This ethos is tied to a culture of violence that normalizes the mistreatment of women and permits their dismissal and delegitimization in the public sphere. Using ethnographic research and a variety of theoretical frameworks, Wright presents the reader with an intricate and passionate account of the spatialized and corporeal aspects of factory work in the global South. However, a more detailed exploration of how workers perceive their own value and labor as well as a more committed examination of coalition-building and global solidarity would further strengthen her claims.