When considering links between the terms “megadams modernity” and “nuclear modernity,” think about how both phrases tie into the title of Rob Nixon’s essay, which he reprints in his book Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor.
For Nixon, “unimagined communities” explains the process in which groups of people are excluded from a dominant narrative. The idea of “unimagined communities” points to the strategy of minimizing, if recognizing at all, the violence done to certain groups of people to maintain a “highly selective discourse of national development.” In other words, for a nation to perpetuate the belief that they're heading in the right direction, a nation will hide the fact that its symbols of progress are causing considerable harm and damage to certain people.
One symbol of progress is the megadam. Nixon notes the strong opposition to Guatemala’s Chixoy Dam. According to Nixon, Guatemalan forces dealt with the opposition by killing more than 370 people. Yet according to a study of the Chixoy Dam undertaken by American, Swiss, and German engineering advisors, “almost no population” was impacted by the construction of the dam. To maintain the narrative that the Chixoy Dam represents a good, beneficial development, those with power erased the people who had been lethally and brutally impacted by this dam from the imagination of the world at large.
To make the connection between constructing megadams and acquiring and using nuclear weapons, think about how Nixon utilizes Arundhati Roy’s work on India’s megadams and nuclear tests. Both, it seems, rely on the idea that these marvels of modernity and power aren’t harming anyone. But as Roy and Nixon show, a lot of injury and death is actually occurring.