A Pyramid for the Living: The Politics of Environment, Culture, and National Development in the Building of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt, 1956-1971


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project documents and analyzes the cultural and social history of Egypt’s High Dam to challenge the conventional picture of Egyptian politics in the late 1950s and the 1960s as either wholly dictated by the state or wholly oppositional to it. More than a transient political spectacle, the building of the dam reordered much of the southern Egyptian landscape; required the relocation of 100,000 Nubians in Egypt and Sudan; prompted a series of architectural, ethnographic, and geological surveys; launched new forms of consumption and commercialized commemoration; and symbolized a rupture with the past that reverberated through a wide array of social practices, including the status of women, the role of religion, and the forms of residential building.