"Beyond the TVA: Alternative genealogies of river basin management" - ESEH 2023 session proposal - looking for panelists

Santiago Gorostiza's picture

Dear all,

Professor Giacomo Parrinello (Sciences Po, Centre for history) and myself are preparing a session proposal on alternative genealogies of the idea of river basin management for the 2023 ESEH conference in Bern. See the abstract below. We are looking for 1-2 presenters. If interested, please contact Santiago Gorostiza (Santiago.gorostiza@sciencespo.fr) before 27 October. An abstract of 250 words will be required to submit the panel.  

Beyond the TVA: Alternative genealogies of river basin management

Building on the ESEH conference focus on “mountains and plains”, this session will examine alternative genealogies of river basin planning and management. Research on the formation and unfolding of river basin authorities has focused mostly on the US, with the emblematic case of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and its long-lasting influence as a model replicated throughout the world (Ekbladh 2002; Hoag 2006; Sneddon & Fox 2011). However, less attention has been paid to its precedents (Klaus Patel 2016). The idea that river basins were the ideal units for river management was much older (Molle 2009). At least since the eighteenth century, proponents of river basin government highlighted the connectivity between mountains and plains, portraying river basins as the “natural” units of government and pointing to the relation between forest cover and erosion in the mountains and the circulation of water and sediments in rivers. In some countries, the idea of river basin planning was put into practice before the most famous American TVA (Swyngedouw 2015). This session aims to bring together case studies about river basin management to explore the genealogies (and political controversies) of this model of environmental management.

Ekbladh, David. 2002. «“Mr. TVA”: Grass-Roots Development, David Lilienthal, and the Rise and Fall of the Tennessee Valley Authority as a Symbol for U.S. Overseas Development, 1933–1973». Diplomatic History 26 (3): 335-74.

Hoag, Heather J. 2006. «Transplanting the TVA? International Contributions to Postwar River Development in Tanzania». Comparative Technology Transfer and Society 4 (3): 247-67. https://doi.org/10.1353/ctt.2007.0005.

Molle, François. 2009. «River-Basin Planning and Management: The Social Life of a Concept». Geoforum 40 (3): 484-94. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2009.03.004.

Klaus Patel, Kiran. 2016. The New Deal. A Global History. Princeton University Press. 

Sneddon, Chris, and Coleen Fox. 2011. «The Cold War, the US Bureau of Reclamation, and the Technopolitics of River Basin Development, 1950–1970». Political Geography 30 (8): 450-60. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2011.09.005.

Swyngedouw, Erik. 2015. Liquid Power: Contested hydro-modernities in twentieth-century Spain. Cambridge: MIT Press.