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Grant number like: FA-252549-17

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Linda Nash
University of Washington (Seattle, WA 98105-6613)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
4/1/2017 – 3/31/2018

American Engineers and Hydroelectric Development Projects in the U.S. and Afghanistan

A book-length study on the post-World War II global spread of hydroelectric power, focusing on the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s engineering projects in Washington State (1942) and Afghanistan (1952).

My study is a comparative and transnational history of infrastructure, focused on its ecological and social implications as well as its aesthetic dimensions. Drawing primarily on the writings and reports of engineers, it chronicles two large hydro-engineering projects that took shape during and after World War II—one in Washington State; the other in Afghanistan. Intellectually, the approach of American engineers in Afghanistan was shaped by their understanding of engineering’s role in conquering western North America, as well as their experience in Washington’s Columbia Basin. Yet in Afghanistan, they found that they lacked the diverse inputs necessary to sustain modern infrastructures and their own technical knowledge. The absence of familiar materials in Afghanistan created a perpetual crisis. These similar yet divergent histories reveal how imperial power and technical knowledge require certain material contexts to remain effective.