American Tropics closes with an examination of the postcolonial situation of tropical research in the circumCaribbean. Today, the institutions that are the most important and heavily used by U.S. biologists for tropical research and teaching are located in independent republics: the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) in Costa Rica and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)—since the 1979 dissolution of the Canal Zone—in Panama. Key players in the move to bring “biodiversity” to the public stage in the 1980s were tropical biologists who had deep connections to OTS and STRI during the previous two decades of transition. The emergence of the modern biodiversity discourse, this book argues, is a direct product of the intellectual and political ferment of tropical biology during that revolutionary period. The significance of that moment, in turn, can be understood only in the context of the full twentieth century and its mixed legacies for tropical biology—the development of placebased research practices and a longstanding dependence on institutions supported by U.S. corporations and government agencies.
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