The Struggle for Water

Politics, Rationality, and Identity in the American Southwest

Wendy Nelson Espeland

The Struggle for Water

Wendy Nelson Espeland

298 pages | 1 map, 2 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 1998
Paper $34.00 ISBN: 9780226217949 Published September 1998
Cloth $81.00 ISBN: 9780226217932 Published September 1998
Nearly fifty years ago, the Bureau of Reclamation proposed building a dam at the confluence of two rivers in Central Arizona. While the dam would bring valuable water to this arid plain, it would also destroy a wildlife habitat, flood archaeological sites, and force the Yavapai Indians off their ancestral home. The Struggle for Water is not only the fascinating story of this controversial and ultimately thwarted public works project but also a study of rationality as a cultural, organizational, and political construct.

In the 1970s, the three groups most intimately involved in the Orme Dam—younger Bureau of Reclamation employees committed to "rational choice" decision making, older Bureau engineers committed to the dam, and the Yavapai community—all found themselves and their values transformed by their struggles. Wendy Nelson Espeland lays bare the relations between interests and identities that emerged during the conflict, creating a contemporary tale of power and colonization, bureaucracies and democratic practice, that asks the crucial question of what it means to be "rational."

Preface and Acknowledgments
1. Contested Rationalities
2. Nature by Design: The Bureau of Reclamation’s Western Conquest
3. The Old Guard: Stand by Your Dam
4. The New Guard: Agents of Rationality, Arbiters of Democracy
5. Views from the Reservation: The Politics and Perspective of Yavapai People
6. Rationality, Form, and Power
Primary Documents and Printed Sources
Secondary Sources

Natl. Academy of Public Administration: Louis Brownlow Book Award

ASA Culture Section: Mary Douglas Prize

Society for Social Studies of Science: Rachel Carson Prize

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