“At last a comprehensive, historically deep and ecologically knowledgeable study of a great dam. The Isaacmans brilliantly show how, all along the Zambezi below the Cahora Bassa Dam, whole worlds of riparian life—fish, birds, humans and other mammals—dependent on the annual inundation of the flood plain have been stilled. They recover the voices silenced by the fear and violence deployed by states devoted to the care and feeding of this mega-project. Unparalleled in its sweep, depth and attention to the lived experience of all its victims.”
James C. Scott, Yale University, author of Seeing Like a State
“…This book is a passionate and richly documented critique of a disastrous high-modernist scheme, concerned not only to challenge the triumphalist narrative of Cahora Bassa, but equally, to argue against the newest “delusion of development” as Mozambique seeks to build a second dam downstream. It is a welcome addition to the literature on large dam projects in Africa, and opens up rich possibilities of comparison around the continent.”
International Journal of African Historical Studies
“What I find most illuminating in this text is the authors’ nuanced assessment of oral evidence from interviews with workers, party officials, and rural residents who experienced changes in their lives as the dam wrought new ecologies. In particular, they recognize and describe collected oral texts (mainly living memory) as “significant social texts with hidden, multiple, and often contradictory meanings.”
James C. McCann, American Historical Review
“Cahora Bassa has always been more than just a hydrological project and Allen and Barbara Isaacman expertly explore how Portugal exerted authority and sought to legitimise their control over the local population…through the construction of a hydroelectric mega scheme…. The Isaacmans provide an excellent and authoritative understanding of the different displacements that have occurred through Cahora Bassa and this book is an important and comprehensive study which will remain a major source for scholars.”
The Journal of Modern African Studies
Cahora Bassa Dam on the Zambezi River, built in the early 1970s during the final years of Portuguese rule, was the last major infrastructure project constructed in Africa during the turbulent era of decolonization. Engineers and hydrologists praised the dam for its technical complexity and the skills required to construct what was then the world’s fifth-largest mega-dam. Portuguese colonial officials cited benefits they expected from the dam—from expansion of irrigated farming and European settlement, to improved transportation throughout the Zambezi River Valley, to reduced flooding in this area of unpredictable rainfall. “The project, however, actually resulted in cascading layers of human displacement, violence, and environmental destruction. Its electricity benefited few Mozambicans, even after the former guerrillas of FRELIMO (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique) came to power; instead, it fed industrialization in apartheid South Africa.” (Richard Roberts)
This in-depth study of the region examines the dominant developmentalist narrative that has surrounded the dam, chronicles the continual violence that has accompanied its existence, and gives voice to previously unheard narratives of forced labor, displacement, and historical and contemporary life in the dam’s shadow.
Allen F. Isaacman, Regents Professor of History at the University of Minnesota and Extraordinary Professor at the University of Western Cape, is the author of seven books, including the co-authored (with Barbara Isaacman) Dams, Displacement, and the Delusion of Development, winner of the ASA Book Prize (formerly Herskovits Award) and the AHA Klein Prize in African History. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has won fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations, among others. More info →
Barbara S. Isaacman, a retired criminal defense attorney, worked with the Mozambican Woman’s Movement (O.M.M.) and taught at the Law Faculty of the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane while living in Mozambique in the late 1970s. She wrote Mozambique—Women, the Law, and Agrarian Reform and co-authored with Allen several books, including the award-winning Dams, Displacement, and the Delusion of Development. More info →
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Release date: April 2013
324 pages · 6 × 9 in.
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Release date: April 2013
“[Dams, Displacement, and the Delusion of Development] is bound to become a classic in the literature on dams and large-scale development schemes and deserves a wide readership, including beyond academic circles.”
Julie Tischler, Humboldt-University in Berlin, Germany
“Cahora Bassa embodies disturbing continuities from colonial developmentalism in current economic planning, including coerced labor and forced resettlement. As veteran Mozambicanists, Allen Isaacman and Barbara Isaacman draw on decades of research, also making use of numerous environmental assessments of the dam’s ecological effects. A great strength of the book comes from presenting many voices of peasants, fisherfolk, and dam workers who speak eloquently about lost lands, rights, and livelihoods. Essential for African and development studies collections.”
“[Dams, Displacement and the Delusion of Development], which is rich with first-hand quotes of people directly impacted by the massive scheme, analyzes the social, environmental and economic failures of this huge dam project. A picture emerges of a river being used as a political football in a time of waning colonial power, and a project fraught with injustices.… This excellent study offers a cautionary tale for those who would build new destructive large dams on the Zambezi River.”
World Rivers Review
“The Isaacmans’ book is a classic, comprehensive account of how a large dam, in this case Mozambique’s most important ‘development’ project when completed, initiated a large-scale land and water grab that has adversely, and unacceptably, affected the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people living in the lower Zambezi Basin.”
Thayer Scudder, California Institute of Technology, author of The Future of Large Dams
“Isaacman and Isaacman provide a wrenching alternative story from the perspective of peasants, fishermen, and workers whose lives were deeply and irreparably impacted by the dam. [A] major corrective to debates about the benefits of big development projects.”
Richard Roberts, Stanford University, coeditor of Trafficking in Slavery’s Wake
Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa
By Catherine Higgs
In Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa, Catherine Higgs traces the early-twentieth-century journey of the Englishman Joseph Burtt to the Portuguese colony of São Tomé and Príncipe—the chocolate islands—through Angola and Mozambique, and finally to British Southern Africa.
African History · World and Comparative History · Slavery and Slave Trade · Angola · São Tomé and Príncipe · African Studies
Cultivating the Colonies
Colonial States and their Environmental Legacies
Edited by Christina Folke Ax, Niels Brimnes, Niklas Thode Jensen, and Karen Oslund
The essays collected in Cultivating the Colonies demonstrate how the relationship between colonial power and nature revealsthe nature of power. Each essay explores how colonial governments translated ideas about the management of exoticnature and foreign people into practice, and how they literally “got their hands dirty” in the business of empire.The eleven essays include studies of animal husbandry in the Philippines, farming in Indochina, and indigenous medicine in India.
History | Historical Geography · World and Comparative History · Colonialism and Decolonization · Environmental Policy · Global Issues · African Studies
Environmental Imaginaries of the Middle East and North Africa
Edited by Diana K. Davis and Edmund Burke III
· Afterword by Timothy Mitchell
The landscapes of the Middle East have captured our imaginations throughout history. Images of endless golden dunes, camel caravans, isolated desert oases, and rivers lined with palm trees have often framed written and visual representations of the region. Embedded in these portrayals is the common belief that the environment, in most places, has been deforested and desertified by centuries of misuse.
World and Comparative History · African History · Environmental Policy · History | Historical Geography · Global Issues · African Studies · Middle East · Northern Africa
Triumph of the Expert
Agrarian Doctrines of Development and the Legacies of British Colonialism
By Joseph Morgan Hodge
Triumph of the Expert is a history of British colonial policy and thinking and its contribution to the emergence of rural development and environmental policies in the late colonial and postcolonial period. Joseph Morgan Hodge examines the way that development as a framework of ideas and institutional practices emerged out of the strategic engagement between science and the state at the climax of the British Empire.
African History · History | Historical Geography · African Studies · History · Environmental Policy · Colonialism and Decolonization
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