Dams, Displacement, and the Delusion of Development (Paperback)
Cahora Bassa and Its Legacies in Mozambique, 1965–2007 (New African Histories)
Ohio University Press, 9780821420331, 324pp.
Publication Date: April 10, 2013
Winner of the 2014 Martin A. Klein Prize in African History (American Historical Association)
Winner of the African Studies Association’s 2014 Melville J. Herskovits Award.
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.
About the Author
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 Mozambique: The Africanization of a European Institution, The Zambezi Prazos, 1750–1902 (winner of the Melville J. Herskovits Award for the most distinguished publication in African Studies, 1972) and Cotton is the Mother of Poverty: Peasants, Work, and Rural Struggle in Colonial Mozambique 1938–1961 (Herskovits Award finalist, 1997). He has won fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations, among others.
Barbara S. Isaacman, a retired criminal defense attorney, lived and taught law in Mozambique at the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane as Professor of Law in the late 1970s. She wrote Women, the Law and Agrarian Reform in Mozambique, and co-wrote several monographs on the history of Mozambique.