I have a chapter appearing in this great new collection titled Thinking With Water edited by Cecilia Chen, Janine MacLeod and Astrida Neimanis (McGill-Queen’s University Press, Fall 2013).
From the MQUP website:
My chapter is titled “The Dammed of the Earth: Reading the Mega-Dam for the Political Unconscious of Globalization.” You can preview it at my academia.edu site (http://www.academia.edu/1474867/The_dammed_of_the_earth_Reading_the_dam_for_the_flows_of_globalization).
Other essays in the volume concern all manner of approaches to the politics, philosophy, sociology and heuristic power of water. It is a very exciting collection.
Here’s the abstract for my chapter:
This chapter reads the dam, specifically the “mega-dam” as a cultural text. Given that ecologically and socially violent hydroelectric projects have been pivotal to the remaking of the world over the past century of Western- (and corporate-) led globalization, we can understand mega-dams as liminal and archetypical figures looming within the “political unconscious” of our global moment. Just as physical dams reshape and harness the flows of water, so too do dams operate in the flow of social imagination: they reshape the way we think about the world and our relationships. I begin by elaborating the way dams and culture intersect: dams are both “cultural edifices” (the product of cultural processes) and profound shapers of culture (in terms of the circulation of social meanings,representations, and relationships). They harness and redirect social cooperation and generate cultural and material power. For this reason, we can “read” representations of the mega-dam in popular texts as “haunted” by larger cultural trends and patterns.Tracing the theme through blockbuster films including The Dam Busters (1955), Superman (1978), Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and X2: X-Men United (2003), I suggest that dams have come to occupy an ambivalent place in the political unconscious of globalization, and images of their failure or collapse preoccupy us today. While these catastrophic imaginings offer a release of tensions bound up in the figure of the dam, I argue that these moments of cinematic catharsis are far from transformative. Instead, I conclude by turning to Thomas King’s 1999 novel Green Grass, Running Water for hints as to how a different cultural politics of the dam might emerge.