15 Jun 2017

Aswan High Dam as a high modern means of control

Alexander Lemons [email] wrote this paper [pdf] for his anthropology class while doing his Masters degree at Reed College.

I highly recommend it for its "non-engineered" take on the impacts of Aswan High Dam on Egyptian citizens.

Here's an excerpt:
The AHD was more than mechanical device crammed into a river in order to provide nearly limitless water for year-round crop production and hydropower. The dam was an infrastructure machine hardwired to specific ideas about how to organize a country politically, economically and agriculturally which in turn required a specific type of expert management bound within the ideology of high modernism. This “Rule of Experts,” as Timothy Mitchell calls them, was a techno-political promise to solve the legacy of postcolonial socio-economic problems in rapid way at the expense of a longer and messier democratic debate. Supporting and selling the dam required burying the potential problems, both ecological or social during and after its construction, while touting its line-by-line economic promises in a far distant future. Ultimately, the AHD was an inherently authoritarian method of radically defining citizenship within modern Egypt while jettisoning an organic democratic structure because its goals, from controlling the river at one focal point to simplifying agriculture on an industrial scale to transporting citizens from farms to cities to an obsession with the future at the expense of the present, forced Egyptians to abandon their traditions about water practices and farming as well as the possibility of a more plural post-revolution to match the demands of the dam.
I can't wait to see more from Alexander.

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