Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States (Paperback)
Bananas, the most frequently consumed fresh fruit in the United States, have been linked to Miss Chiquita and Carmen Miranda, "banana republics," and Banana Republic clothing stores—everything from exotic kitsch, to Third World dictatorships, to middle-class fashion. But how did the rise in banana consumption in the United States affect the banana-growing regions of Central America? In this lively, interdisciplinary study, John Soluri integrates agroecology, anthropology, political economy, and history to trace the symbiotic growth of the export banana industry in Honduras and the consumer mass market in the United States.
Beginning in the 1870s, when bananas first appeared in the U.S. marketplace, Soluri examines the tensions between the small-scale growers, who dominated the trade in the early years, and the shippers. He then shows how rising demand led to changes in production that resulted in the formation of major agribusinesses, spawned international migrations, and transformed great swaths of the Honduran environment into monocultures susceptible to plant disease epidemics that in turn changed Central American livelihoods. Soluri also looks at labor practices and workers' lives, changing gender roles on the banana plantations, the effects of pesticides on the Honduran environment and people, and the mass marketing of bananas to consumers in the United States. His multifaceted account of a century of banana production and consumption adds an important chapter to the history of Honduras, as well as to the larger history of globalization and its effects on rural peoples, local economies, and biodiversity.
— Edward F. Fischer
[Soluri] provides a well-written, balanced, and multifaceted perspective on the banana. . . . Banana Cultures leaves the reader with an understanding of the banana export trade that combines history and the botany and agriculture of the banana with a discussion of production, economics, and the changing culture of consumption in the United States. The reader will never take a banana for granted again.
— Marcus B. Griffin
Emphasizing a dimension of banana production mentioned in passing by others—the ecological challenges posed by monoculture farming—Soluri offers a major rewriting of the industry's history. His eminently readable account starts on the north coast of Honduras, one of the first regions incorporated into the banana trade. . . . [Soluri's account] is significant both for its rethinking of industry history and its skillful integration of the material, ecological, and symbolic aspects of banana production and consumption. In sum, the book is essential reading for anyone interested in the production and social life of everyday commodities.
— Mark Moberg
[A] splendid transnational history…this is a path-breaking study that makes a major contribution to agroecology and to the history of business strategies, agricultural science and technology, work processes, and the marketing and consumption of tropical commodities in North America.
— The Americas
"[Banana Cultures] will be a standard-bearer in banana plantation history for years to come."
— Environmental History
Soluri’s narrative, well written and informed by popular culture and oral histories, is also very engaging for readers of any background. By providing a comparative perspective in his last chapter, he also highlights the implications of his approach and points to some other commodities, such as coffee and sugar, that could benefit from his approach.
— Felipe Cruz
Soluri’s volume remains distinctive for its sweeping consideration of the social, ecological and symbolic contexts of banana production and consumption...Banana Cultures remains essential reading on the social, cultural and ecological dimensions of the fruit and firms that transformed much of Central America.
— Journal of Latin American Studies
Soluri has taken an already classic and wonderfully accessible work and further enhanced it by bookending it with these two new thought-provoking and insightful essays. In doing so, he has only strengthened an already pioneering work.
— The Americas