This study of borderland “vice” in US-Panama relations argues that a focus on these activities, which many considered illicit, deepens our understanding of both the mechanics of empire and the development of nation-states, while complicating assorted state actions usually considered simple “corruption.” Engaging illicit activity proved an important aspect of both Panamanian nation-state formation and US imperial expansion. Panama served as an early “workshop” for US officials to experiment with extraterritorial criminal justice initiatives as a means of control in lieu of direct occupation. Local power holders worked with these powerful intrusions but often not in ways US officials hoped. Controlling the illicit infrastructure of state became an important component of institutionalized politics and power in Panama.
Scalena, Matthew, Servicing the Demands of Empire: Institutionalizing Illegality in Panama's Borderlands, Simons Papers in Security and Development, No. 27/2013, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, November 2013.
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