The Lived Nile: Environment, Disease and Material Colonial Economy in Egypt
A talk with Jennifer Derr, on her new book about how the Nile flooding not only reshaped the environment but also Egypt’s colonial economy.
About the Book: In October 1902, the reservoir of the first Aswan Dam filled, and Egypt’s relationship with the Nile River forever changed. Flooding villages of historical northern Nubia and filling the irrigation canals that flowed from the river, the perennial Nile not only reshaped agriculture and the environment, but also Egypt’s colonial economy and forms of subjectivity.
Jennifer L. Derr follows the engineers, capitalists, political authorities, and laborers who built a new Nile River through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The river helped to shape the future of technocratic knowledge, and the bodies of those who inhabited rural communities were transformed through the environmental intimacies of their daily lives. At the root of this investigation lies the notion that the Nile is not a singular entity, but a realm of practice and a set of temporally, spatially, and materially specific relations that structured experiences of colonial economy. From the microscopic to the regional, the local to the imperial, The Lived Nile recounts the history and centrality of the environment to questions of politics, knowledge, and the lived experience of the human body itself.
About the Author: Jennifer L. Derr is an Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an affiliate of the Science & Justice Research Center. Derr’s research interests include: Colonial and Post-colonial Middle Eastern history; environmental history; history of science; history of medicine; critical geography. She earned her PhD in History at Stanford and is an alumna of the MAAS program.
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