Entangled Geographies

Entangled Geographies: Empire and Technopolitics in the Global Cold War

edited by Gabrielle Hecht
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Entangled Geographies
    Book Description:

    The Cold War was not simply a duel of superpowers. It took place not just in Washington and Moscow but also in the social and political arenas of geographically far-flung countries emerging from colonial rule. Moreover, Cold War tensions were manifest not only in global political disputes but also in struggles over technology. Technological systems and expertise offered a powerful way to shape countries politically, economically, socially, and culturally. Entangled Geographiesexplores how Cold War politics, imperialism, and postcolonial nation building became entangled in technologies and considers the legacies of those entanglements for today's globalized world. The essays address such topics as the islands and atolls taken over for military and technological purposes by the supposedly non-imperial United States, apartheid-era South Africa's efforts to achieve international legitimacy as a nuclear nation, international technical assistance and Cold War politics, the Saudi irrigation system that spurred a Shi'i rebellion, and the momentary technopolitics of emergency as practiced by Medecins sans Frontières. The contributors to Entangled Geographies offer insights from the anthropology and history of development, from diplomatic history, and from science and technology studies. The book represents a unique synthesis of these three disciplines, providing new perspectives on the global Cold War.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-29571-0
    Subjects: History, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)
    Gabrielle Hecht

    From its earliest days, the Cold War proceeded in uneasy tension with empire. Tensions ran through global disputes over politics, economics, society, and culture. They were also enacted in struggles over technology. Technological systems and expertise offered less visible—but sometimes more powerful—means of shaping or reshaping political rule, economic arrangements, social relationships, and cultural forms. This volume explores how Cold War politics, imperialism, and disputes over decolonization became entangled in technologies, and considers the legacies of those entanglements for today’s global (dis)order.

    Our project began with an effort to see what insights three domains of scholarship might offer...

  5. 2 Islands: The United States as a Networked Empire
    (pp. 13-42)
    Ruth Oldenziel

    In the spring of 2003, US President Bush, British Prime Minister Blair, Spanish Prime Minister Aznar, and their host, Portuguese President Barroso, landed on the island of Terceira to hold a press conference and present Iraq with an ultimatum for war. The location of their press conference in the Portuguese Azores—a constellation of nine Atlantic islands far from mainland Europe—puzzled commentators. Reporters speculated that this far-flung setting, best known as an exotic holiday destination rather than a convincing projection of US power, symbolized the marginal European support for an invasion of Iraq.

    In ways that commentators did not...

  6. 3 The Uses of Portability: Circulating Experts in the Technopolitics of Cold War and Decolonization
    (pp. 43-74)
    Donna C. Mehos and Suzanne M. Moon

    Technical experts saw their professional geographies change, sometimes dramatically, as a consequence of the Cold War and decolonization in the years after World War II. Stunned businesspeople watched the cozy relationships they enjoyed with imperial powers disappear under decolonization, and the stable and profitable colonial business environment with it. Entrenched companies sometimes pulled up stakes and moved in the face of revolution, nationalized industries, or collapsed systems of supply. Technical experts who had spent careers amassing knowledge suited to the specific social, political, and ecological environments in one stable colonial territory suddenly found themselves trying to operationalize that knowledge somewhere...

  7. 4 On the Fallacies of Cold War Nostalgia: Capitalism, Colonialism, and South African Nuclear Geographies
    (pp. 75-100)
    Gabrielle Hecht

    A peculiar nostalgia for the Cold War has pervaded American public discourse since September 11, 2001. Pundits and scholars alike invoke the Cold War as a time of clear, stark choices: capitalism vs. communism, good vs. evil, us vs. them. The oddly wistful tone of this false memory flows from the fiction that the Cold War remained cold, by which people usually mean that nuclear deterrence “worked”: against all odds, the United States and the Soviet Union didn’t annihilate the human race. Such nostalgia relegates proxy wars to near-irrelevance, not only because of the subalternity of their locations and victims,...

  8. 5 Rare Earths: The Cold War in the Annals of Travancore
    (pp. 101-124)
    Itty Abraham

    In a way it begins with semantic confusion. So-called rare earths were “rare” because it was assumed that these naturally forming mineral-laden compounds were scarce and hard to find.¹ It didn’t mean they were valuable—though economists are quick to assume the identity of scarcity and value—at least not until two independent transformations of rare earths took place, each giving new meanings and value to particular rare earths. But before we get there, it also turns out that rare earths aren’t really that scarce after all. This nomenclature is a symptom of the geo-historical origins of modern chemistry. In...

  9. 6 Nuclear Colonization?: Soviet Technopolitics in the Second World
    (pp. 125-154)
    Sonja D. Schmid

    In 1990, the government of reunited Germany had every Soviet-designed nuclear power reactor in the former German Democratic Republic shut down, ostensibly for safety reasons. Shortly thereafter, Czechoslovakia split peacefully into two republics. A decade later, the Czech Republic and Slovakia each launched two Soviet-designed reactors that had been completed with substantial contributions from Western firms. These reactors brought the nuclear share of their electricity generating capacity to 31 percent and 55 percent, respectively.¹ How can we explain these remarkably different developments among post-communist states? The former East Germany and the former Czechoslovakia had both relied on Soviet assistance to...

  10. 7 The Technopolitical Lineage of State Planning in Hungary, 1930–1956
    (pp. 155-184)
    Martha Lampland

    The battle to gain allies and control territory in the Cold War was orchestrated in large part by experts in economic development promising technological innovation to usher in a modern future. The epochal break symbolized by the Iron Curtain was rendered visible in geographic polarities of East and West, and ever-shifting lines on the outdated maps of formerly colonial hinterlands. The strategies and techniques experts deployed to promote economic development, however, did not follow the same geographical contours, with similarities crisscrossing political divides. Nor were the policies adopted novel approaches to economic progress, as the techniques and practices deployed were...

  11. 8 Fifty Yearsʹ Progress in Five: Brasilia—Modernization, Globalism, and the Geopolitics of Flight
    (pp. 185-208)
    Lars Denicke

    This was one of many enthusiastic voices commenting on the inauguration of the new Brazilian capital in 1960. The shift of the political center from Rio de Janeiro to the new city in the country’s less developed interior, more than 600 miles from the coastline, was central to Juscelino Kubitschek’s presidency from 1956 to 1961. The construction of Brasilia, accomplished in only three years, marked the technopolitics of development at high speed, titled, in Kubitschek’s government program, “Fifty Years’ Progress in Five.” As I will argue, Kubitschek’s program reveals the spatial logic of two central concepts of Cold War technopolitics:...

  12. 9 Crude Ecology: Technology and the Politics of Dissent in Saudi Arabia
    (pp. 209-230)
    Toby C. Jones

    In November 1979, in an unprecedented act of dissent, thousands of Shi’i men and women revolted against Saudi Arabian authority. Over the course of several days, rioters attacked local symbols of sate power in the kingdom’s Eastern Province, burning the offices of the Saudi Arabian National Airline, demolishing government vehicles, and clashing with heavily armed police forces.¹ The state responded quickly and harshly, dispatching as many as 20,000 members of the National Guard to beat back the protests.² Guardsmen fired openly at those in the street, killing dozens and crushing the attempt to throw off the yoke of Saudi repression.³...

  13. 10 A Plundering Tiger with Its Deadly Cubs? The USSR and China as Weapons in the Engineering of a ʺZimbabwean Nation,ʺ 1945–2009
    (pp. 231-266)
    Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga

    Does it make sense to talk about the “Cold War,” let alone “The Global Cold War,” in the Global South? What happens to local time when “watershed moments” in the Global North are extended uncritically to mark global time? Are we sure that the materiality and meaning of these “local” events are shared beyond their borders? How do other locals measure their own times?

    Like “the First World War” and “the Second World War,” “the Cold War” falls within a continuing way of defining what counts as worldly (what is globally significant) from Europe and North America, using war as...

  14. 11 Cleaning Up the Cold War: Global Humanitarianism and the Infrastructure of Crisis Response
    (pp. 267-292)
    Peter Redfield

    Sven Lindqvist’s bookA History of Bombinggrimly details the brutal fantasies and colonial violence accompanying the advent of aerial warfare. It also incorporates counterpoint themes: growing concern for civilians and fitful claims to common humanity.¹ Sudden attack from the skies produced dramatic destruction, after all, creating a new theater for suffering. Once rendered visible, and matched with the proper structure of sentiment, scenes of broken bodies and panicked refugees could inspire moral response. Between the founding of the United Nations in 1945 and the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the planet saw no shortage of dramatic human...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 293-328)
  16. About the Authors
    (pp. 329-330)
  17. Index
    (pp. 331-337)