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University of Minnesota Conference on Dams and Consequences

October 29, 2010Patrick NunnallyProgram & Announcements, UncategorizedComments Off on University of Minnesota Conference on Dams and Consequences

“In the view of conservationists, there is something special about dams, something…metaphysically sinister….the absolute epicenter of Hell on earth, where stands a dam.”
John McPhee Encounters with the Archdruid (1971)

Dams have been characterized as “long-term experiments on rivers,” and as affronts to the freedom embodied in flowing rivers. But they also provide needed hydroelectric power to many parts of the world, and serve as important regulators of floods. Dams represent tremendous concentrations of engineering expertise, capital, and political power in the developing world, and they disrupt biological and hydrological processes. Yet they keep getting built.  

This conference brings together diverse experts from a range of academic practices and disciplines to examine the phenomena of dams and the consequences, intended and unintended, that accrue from their construction.  The sessions entail a broadly dialogic approach, with perspectives focusing on global as well as more localized frames of reference, critical and theoretical perspectives as well as immanent and pragmatic views, and the understandings derived from biological and physical sciences as well as disciplines that might be thought of as the “human sciences.”

Our intentions with the conference are to raise questions and explore complexities, to provoke reflection from consideration of new perspectives, and to suggest future lines of inquiry in diverse disciplines and practices.  Our sessions will most likely not speak directly to present questions of removal of actual dams, but will, we hope, suggest areas of research, policy, and thinking that can guide future actions.

The conference is free and open to the public, however, space is limited and pre-registration is advised. Box lunches will be available for conference attendees who register by November 9. You may register by contacting the Institute for Advanced Study at or 612-626-5054.

The conference begins with a Thursdays at Four presentation on November 11, and continues on Friday November 12, 2010.

More information, including a schedule, driving and parking directions for the St. Anthony Falls Lab, can be found at

This conference is organized by these University of Minnesota programs: the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC), the Institute on the Environment, and the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory. The conference is part of the University Symposium on Abundance and Scarcity, with support from the University’s Office of the Vice President of Research, the Office of International Programs Global Spotlight, and the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics with funding from the National Science Foundation.


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