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Concrete RevolutionLarge Dams, Cold War Geopolitics, and the US Bureau of Reclamation$
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Christopher Sneddon

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226284316

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226284453.001.0001

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Large Dams, Technopolitics, and Development

Large Dams, Technopolitics, and Development

(p.1) One Large Dams, Technopolitics, and Development
Concrete Revolution

Christopher Sneddon

University of Chicago Press

Large dams, brought into being through a combination of technological prowess, engineering expertise and political-economic calculation, have radically altered humanity’s relationship with planetary river systems. This ‘concrete revolution’ was deeply connected to global geopolitics and efforts by the United States foreign policy apparatus to exert influence over newly emerging nation-states via technical and economic assistance. This chapter introduces the book’s major themes: the intimate linkages among geopolitics, technologies, and large-scale environmental transformations carried out in the name of “development”; and the production and transfer of the powerful ideal that the river basin is the most appropriate unit for a host of inter-related water development and management activities. These themes are examined through a conceptual framework that integrates contemporary thinking on assemblages, technopolitics, environmental history and the geopolitics of development. Large dams, as technological objects constituted through assemblages of capital, knowledge and power, represent a crucial spatial and temporal node of technopolitics in the 20th century. These hybrids behave in often unpredictable ways, despite the best efforts to plan for and take account of the social and biophysical changes wrought by damming a river.

Keywords:   assemblage, cold war, concrete revolution, environmental history, geopolitics of development, modernization, science and technology studies (STS), technopolitics, World Commission on Dams

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