American Legal History
I am exploring the intersection of land policy and the cultural, social and political history of Guam, focusing on the US imperial project from the late-19th to mid-20th century. The overriding value of the territory to the US has been its strategic location in the Western Pacific. The martial logic of possessing the island has exerted a gravitational pull on the island's economic geography, as land owned by the indigenous Chamorro has gradually been transferred to the US govt/ military, through "conquer," tax default, eminent domain and outright purchase.

This process of acquisition is significant given traditional Chamorro conceptualizations of land. It has been imputed mythic/ religious importance as part of the spiritual fabric of the community. In addition, the Chamorro typically assigned collective ownership to village property. Thus, capitalization of land -- and with it, fragmentation -- has been a catalyst in Guam's transformation from an interdependent to an increasingly nuclear/ individualistic society. I also intend to look at some of the symptoms of this transition, e.g. an exponential increase in rates of youth "delinquency" (a word/ notion previously not part of the Chamorro lexicon in "pre-contact" Guam). I also intend to examine how land dislocation traces Guam's transition from a primarily agricultural economy to one based on tourism and serving the needs of the US military. I am looking for parallels between Guam's role as a geopolitical nexus in the tenor of the Caribbean islands in the 17th century Atlantic world, e.g. conceptualizing military capability as a unit of economic/political utility a la sugar.

In the earlier part of the 20th century, land fragmentation/ dislocation mostly reflected a tax on land aimed to divide inefficiently large land tracts/ tend to economies of scale in local agriculture. This tax has largely been characterized as unsuccessful. In part because the tax didn't accurately respond to market values, making default common. However, I'm also interested in the application of the "release of energy" principle to the Pacific context. For example, one question I'm thinking about is if the "release" principle is historically contingent in the way that some political theorists assume democracy requires a certain political culture. Maybe Guam's traditional flavor as a status-oriented, communal society is less receptive to market forces in real estate.

Another legal policy of interest, connecting land dislocation to the capitalization of Guam's economy, is the devaluation/ under-valuation of locally-held land and the "triple wage system" effected until the second half of the 20th century (Chamorro mandated to receive lower wages than locally-hired "Americans" or Americans brought from continental US). It's interesting that the Guamanian standard of living and economic power was purposely limited by the US govt. I hope to tend closer to Edmund Morgan's brand of historical materialism rather than a Leninist-imperialist modality, but these sorts of policies do reflect a sort of imperialist attitude to their own territory from the United States.

By mid-century, less than half of Guam's land was privately owned by Chamorro. The island was also devastated by fighting in the Pacific Theatre during WW2. As a result, many locals were without land. Again, their situation was exacerbated by the fact that written deeds etc were not historically not part of the legal culture of property. I also intend to write on how debate over land claims were important to the passing of the Organic Act of 1950, a culmination of protests for Guamanian political autonomy.

My intuition thus far is that Guam's legal-social development doesn't so much reflect a concerted US policy, but perhaps the opposite. Generally Wash DC was simply indifferent to Guam, e.g. as indicated by its status as an uncorporated territory. In a way, this sort of silent re-structuring of Guam society was more upsetting to the Chamarro. I may look briefly at this motif, with respect to Guamanian poetry on land and un-status, as well as some nomenclature issues, e.g. relate to Iriquois, "boondocks" from Tagalog.

So far I've looked mainly at secondary sources, anthologies of primary sources (Chamarro perspectives; legislative debate and history) and some primary docs of US govt describing land and legal situations on island (eg from National Park Service). Some of the primary sources border on memoire - I wonder if I should include some discussion of relationship of memory and history.

Some sources: An Island in Agony, Tony Palomo (Self-published, 1984) Guam: A Nomenclatural Chronology, Marjorie G. Driver (Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam, 1985) Destiny's Landfall: A History of Guam, Robert F. Rogers (Univ of Hawai'i Press, 1995) Justice on Guam: A Historical Review, Anthony P. Sanchez Insights: The Chamorro Identity, anthology (published by Political Status Education Coordinating Commission as Mandated by Public Law 20-99, 1993) We Fought the Navy and Won, A Personal Memoir, Doloris Coulter Cogan (Univ of Hawai'i Press, 2008) A Complete History of Guam, Paul Carano and Pedro C. Sanchez (Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1964) Issues in Guam's Political Development: The Chamorro Perspective, anthology (published by Political Status Education Coordinating Commission as Mandated by Public Law 20-99, 1996) Archaeology and History of Guam (National Park Service, Dept of the Interior 1952) A Study of 8 post-WW2 Resettlement Villages on Guam, Rosalind L. Hunter-Anderson and Darlene R. Moore (prepared for Dept of Parks and Recreation, Division of Historic Resources, Guam, 2006) Land Tenure in the Pacific, anthology (University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji, 1987) Guam's Trial of the Century: News, Hegemony and Rumor in the American Colony, Peter DeBeneditis? (Praeger, 1993) A Campaign for Political Rights on the Island of Guam, 1899-1950, Penelope Bordallo Hofschieder (CNMI Division of Historic Preservation, 2001) Colonizing Hawai'i: The Cultural Power of Law, Sally Engle Merry (Princeton University Press, 2000)

More to come: Archaeology and History of Guam (National Park Service, US Dept of Interior, 1952)


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