How might we begin to write a history of Chinese dam-building in the twentieth century? While there are significant bodies of work that analyze water and river management through China’s long imperial past or consider the rise and effect of recent mega-projects like the Three Gorges Dam, we still have no account of dam building in China over the past hundred years, a period during which an estimated one in five large dams constructed in the world was Chinese. In my new book-length project I hope to provide such an account. My goal is to examine this history in the light of twentieth-century scientific utopianism, technological and environmental history, and national and transnational networks of expertise. The findings will not only contribute to our understanding of China and Asia’s environmental history, but also inform global debates on the history of water. This talk will introduce the project and provide a sense of the questions, materials, and sites I hope to work upon.
About the Speaker
Arunabh Ghosh is a historian of modern China, with research and teaching interests in social and economic history, history of science and statecraft, transnational history, and China-India history. Ghosh’s current in-progress book manuscript, entitled "Making it Count: Statistics and Statecraft in the early People's Republic of China, 1949-1959," is under contract with Princeton University Press. The book investigates how the early PRC state built statistical capacity to know the nation through numbers. He has conducted research for the book in Beijing, Guangzhou, New Delhi, and Kolkata, and his work has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Andrew F. Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council, and Columbia University. Other research projects include a history of dam and reservoir construction in twentieth century China and essays on 1950s China-India history (see publications).Trained at Haverford College and at Tsinghua and Columbia universities, Ghosh joined the History Department in 2015 from the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, where he was an Academy Scholar for the 2014-15 AY.
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