In Rob Nixon’s essay “Unimagined Communities,” he links what could be called “megadam modernity” with what could likewise be called “nuclear modernity.” Trace this connection in your own words, and think of other concrete ways that these two kinds of modernity could be linked.

In his essay “Unimagined Communities,” Rob Nixon argues that nations use both megadams and nuclear tests to prove their modernity, power, and independence. At the same time, however, these nations push certain segments of their populations into the status of “developmental refugees” or “uninhabitants” who suffer the consequences of their nation’s pursuit of modernity.

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In his essay “Unimagined Communities: Developmental Refugees, Megadams and Monumental Modernity,” Rob Nixon, following Arundhati Roy, links megadams with nuclear testing as examples of an unhealthy modernity that is more about showing the power and independence of one's nation than about actually attaining benefits for all or even most people in that nation.

Nixon argues that both megadams and nuclear testing are ways in which a developing country can show the world that it has entered modernity and is becoming a power in its own right. Great feats of engineering like megadams and displays of force like nuclear testing are used to reveal a nation's independence in the postcolonial era, yet this is ironic, for these projects are often funded by global organizations like the World Bank.

Furthermore, these expressions of modernity push many people within these nations further away from any kind of development, modern or otherwise. Megadam projects displace whole communities, the people of which become “developmental refugees” or “uninhabitants,” forced from their homes and lives by their nation's desire to be modern. Nixon provides examples from the megadam projects in India for which scores of people are simply shifted out of the way, often under the threat of violence. Nuclear testing does much the same, as Nixon shows, citing the case of the Western Shoshone people of the US and the nomads of Kazakhstan, both of whom experienced the affects of nuclear fallout, sometimes being pushed from their homes, other times becoming ill, always ending up “uninhabitants” who counted for nothing in the eyes of officials searching for modernity.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 23, 2021
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