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Cold War Geopolitics and the Proliferation of Large Dams: Christopher Sneddon, November 2010

November 11, 2010IASEvents, Video and Audio0

Christopher Sneddon (Ph.D., University of Minnesota) is a professor of Environmental Studies and Geography at Dartmouth College. His research focuses on the political ecology of river basin development, primarily in Southeast Asia. His recent work focuses on transnational river basins (such as the Mekong and Zambezi), conflicts over water in a variety of settings, and the linkages among power, scale and institutions in the context of river basin management.

This talk is also available as an audio download (.mp3 – 47.6 MB).

The 20th century witnessed a tremendous expansion in the size and number of large dams constructed across the face of the planet, yet historical research on the connections between technology, geopolitics and developmental discourses during this period remains incomplete. This talk examines the critical role of the United States Bureau of Reclamation in the global dissemination of the technologies and ideologies of large dams during the Cold War. Large dams, this research argues, became a crucial geopolitical tool for the American state in its efforts to both contain the perceived Soviet threat and extend United States imperial ambitions. Debates over large dams and their transformative socio-ecological impacts must come to terms with the deeply (geo)politicized character of these “technological marvels” and the historical conditions that spawned their creation and proliferation.

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