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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Brown Bag Series with Professor Allen Isaacman

The Interdisciplinary Center for the study of Global Change is holding the Brown Bag Series this week entitled "Cahora Bassa: Extending South Africa's Tentacles of Empire 1965-2013." It will be held on Friday, October 25 at 12:00pm in 437 Heller Hall. It will be presented by Professor Allen Isaacman.

In 1965, when Portugal proposed constructing a dam at Cahora Bassa, colonial officials envisioned that numerous benefits would flow from the US$515 million hydroelectric project and the managed environment it would produce. However, during the period of construction, the growing success of the liberation struggle against Portuguese colonialism in Mozambique turned the dam into a focal point in a larger regional struggle, and Cahora Bassa became a security project, which the minority regime in South Africa and the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal masked as a development initiative. Both viewed the dam and its connected lake as a powerful buffer that would block the advance of FRELIMO (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique) forces and, by extension, the African National Congress, since they feared that, were FRELIMO and its allies able to cross the Zambezi River, they would have relatively easy access to both the two major colonial cities of Beira and Lourenço Marques and the South Africa frontier. The agreement enabled the apartheid regime to extend its influence well beyond southern Mozambique, where it had been a dominant force since the middle of the nineteenth century. Its tentacles of empire now reached north from its de-facto labor reserve in southern Mozambique and its dominance at the port of Lourenço Marques to the dam site in very heart of the colony, some nine hundred kilometers away. Allowing South Africa to expand into the Mozambican hinterhand was just the latest example of the financially strapped Portuguese state's "outsourcing of empire."