Social science meets social policy: anthropology and American water management

I’ll be giving the first talk based on my new book today in the speaker’s series here at Dalhousie (Sociology and Social Anthropology at 2:30 today if you’re in Halifax). It will cover the role of a largely forgotten group of anthropologists in convincing Theodore Roosevelt to adopt the model of conservation that infused the Progressive Era of natural resource planning in early 20th century America. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get public feedback on some of these ideas. Several generous colleagues have offered criticisms of the written work by reading the whole book, and it will be interesting to compare their impressions with those who get the version I’ve distilled for this talk. Here is the abstract:

ABSTRACT: “At the turn of the 20th century, resource conservation and multi-purpose river basin planning were central to American social policy, and both ideas were shaped by a small group of anthropologists in Washington D.C. that had previously worked in the U.S. Geological Survey. As such, ideas of geologic evolution frequently, and often explicitly, shaped their ethnological explanations. At this intersection of geology and anthropology water’s agency became the key-log that linked physical and social evolution to the U.S. state. In this talk I show how these ideas came together under the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and ultimately formed the basis for American water management.”

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