Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global and Sociocultural Studies

First Advisor's Name

Gail Hollander

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Roderick Neumann

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Percy Hintzen

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Kevin Grove

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Todd Crowl

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


flooding, resilience, infrastructure

Date of Defense



Overabundance and scarcity of water are global concerns. Across the world’s low-lying coastal plains, flooding brought on by sea level rise acts as an existential threat for a multitude of people and cultures while in desert (and increasingly non-desert) regions intensifying drought cycles do the same. In the decades to come, how people manage these threats will have important implications not only for individual and cultural survival, but also for questions of justice. Recent research on flooding and flood management probes the histories of survival, and adaptation in flood threatened regions for insights into emergent flood-related crises. However, scholars have thus far overemphasized the technical aspects of how engineered flood control systems functioned, overlooking both the specific social, political, and economic contexts within which past practices emerged and the social worlds that they helped create. This dissertation examines the social, economic, and political histories of flood control projects in the South American country of Guyana in order to understand the long lasting social, political, and environmental impacts of colonial-era projects.

To do this, I utilized archival data collected from the National Archives in London, UK, historical newspaper articles collected through online newspaper databases, press release statements from Guyana’s major political parties, and unstructured and semi-structured interviews with residents from coastal Guyana. These data were imported and analyzed using qualitative data analysis software in order to make connections across spatial and temporal scales.

The key finding of the dissertation is that, in Guyana, flood control engineering has historically played multiple social, political, and economic roles beyond the functional explanations assumed in many present environmental management discourses. Colonial engineering projects served as a way to protect colonizers from economic crises and social upheaval and were not just a means for protecting the coast from flooding. Additionally, the dissertation found that these projects were key to creating the racial geographies that helped to protect colonialism in its final years and which continue to shape coastal life today. Finally, the dissertation found that, after the end of colonialism, flood engineering projects were incorporated into larger projects of racialized regime survival.







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