The gender of water and the pleasure of alienation: A critical analysis of visiting hoover dam

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Abstract

Hoover Dam, located on the Arizona-Nevada border and damming the Colorado River, is a well-known and often-visited place. The meanings people assign to such a structure articulate key environmental, economic and technological ideologies. An exploration of those meanings is important for understanding the forces that shape public perception and environmental policy. Specifically, this essay examines the official rhetoric of Hoover Dam from an ecofeminist perspective. Through a critical reading of the educational displays, films, plaques and other texts as well as the physical structure of the dam itself, three rhetorical strategies used in the dam's official presentation are identified. First, the Bureau of Reclamation presents the Colorado River as a chaotic, feminine entity in need of masculine control. Second, the river's rhetorical status as an Other encourages audiences to identify with the subject position of nature's master and thereby participate in the pleasures such an identity offers. Third, the Bureau uses the prevalent “common sense” of Native Americans as environmentally sensitive in combination with an “historical” Native American voice to establish the dam as both environmentally sound and a logical step in humanity's progress toward economic development and dominion over nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-283
Number of pages25
JournalCommunication Review
Volume7
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004

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alienation
Dams
river
water
gender
Rivers
Water
environmental policy
Ideologies
economics
rhetoric
Economics
Reclamation
Display devices
Acoustic waves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication

Cite this

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