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"Little Island into Mighty Base": Indigeneity, Race, and U.S. Empire in Guam, 1944-1962


This dissertation examines the creation of Guam’s post-World War II multiracial society through Chamorro land stewardship and the recruitment of non-local labor. This tiny 212-square-mile island in the western Pacific became a crucible of American empire that connected Guam, the Philippines, and the United States. This synergy of expansion between the U.S. government and private industry resulted in the construction of Apra Harbor, bases, military homes, and roads throughout Guam. This process was based on the U.S. military’s acquisition of land and the recruitment of approximately 28,000 civilian military workers, most notably men from the Philippines and the United States who constructed these installations. Central to this history are the experiences of Chamorros who fought to retain their ancestral lands and Filipino immigrant workers who organized to protect their wages. In turn, the military attempted to control indigenous land stewardship, Filipino labor, and interracial relationships on the island. However, the military’s expansion project also produced interracial encounters among Chamorros, Filipinos, and white Americans that were amicable, violent, and sometimes tragic. Consequently, the triangulation of Chamorros, Filipinos, and white Americans elucidates the connections between empire, indigeneity, and labor on a highly contested racialized island.

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