Faculty Advisor

Dr. Patricia Goldsworthy-Bishop


The completion of the Aswan Low Dam in 1902 was trumpeted by British policymakers and engineers as a great engineering feat and triumph over the forces of the Nile River. The Dam symbolized a break from traditional irrigation methods that had sustained people in the Nile River Valley for millennia and symbolized a new era of international relations for Egypt. Successors of the Aswan Low Dam have included a number of alterations to the original and the construction of the Aswan High Dam seven km upriver in the 1960s. The Aswan High Dam has garnered much attention from critics of modernization theory, environmentalists and proponents of the Dam alike. However, much of the social and environmental issues that are debated in the historical discourse surrounding the Aswan High Dam were present throughout the history of its antecedent. Understanding the social and environmental issues involved with the construction of the first Aswan Dam provides an example of the potential impacts of large-scale environmental programs on the people who inhabit the areas where they are pursued. Ultimately, the construction of the Aswan Low Dam was the product of British colonial administrators, informed by Orientalist and modernist biases, whose predilections of the value of damming the Nile left them overlooking the social and environmental impacts of this engineering project, which would be repeated sixty years later and continue to have implications for the people who inhabit the Nile River Valley and surrounding bioregion.

Document Type


PDF-A Engineering Modernity_ The Aswan Low Dam and Modernizing the Nile.pdf (1199 kB)
PDF/A Version