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Human Bodies and the Forces of Nature: Technoscience Perspectives on Hydropower Dams, Safety, Human Security, Emotions and Embodied Knowledges
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Centre for Gender Research. (Technoscience)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2820-0584
2016 (English)In: International Journal of Technoscience and Development, ISSN 2001-2837, Vol. 1, no 1, 1-14 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Hydropower has commonly been promoted as an environmentally friendly and renewable energy resource. Despite this, the major negative social and ecological impacts on the environment and its local inhabitants have been well established for a long time, as well as the high risks for large-scale disasters caused by hydropower dam failures. Drawing on a qualitative study that focuses on the Lule River in Sweden, this article analyses the cultural politics of emotions with regard to dams, reservoirs, safety and human security.

Annually between one and two major dam failures occur around the world, with major consequences for human and non-human lives, the environment and the economy, and the issue has been addressed in policy making and within the work of power companies since the 1970’s. However, more people die due to accidents on dams and reservoirs than due to dam failures. In Sweden, the number of hydropower regulation related deaths within the demographically small municipality of Jokkmokk, where a major part of Sweden’s hydropower is being produced, is on average 0,02 per cent per year, or 1-2 persons, which would correspond to 180-360 deaths in the Swedish capital Stockholm. Yet, there are no calls for inquiries, investigations and measurements to ensure public safety around dams in Sweden. Linking these two aspects on hydropower dams and safety through the concept of human security we identify a void of understanding and valuing the importance of humans’ – operators - lived experiences and invested emotions in the work to avoid dam failures, accidents on the reservoirs and loss of lives. We address the fact that the operators live and are related to the inhabitants of the regulated Lule River and what role this may play in enhanced human security.

          We argue that technical reports and studies on dam safety are written in a way that invokes false emotions of control, safety and security for inhabitants as well as political decision makers. New technologies for camera surveillance and monitoring provide opportunities to assemble data on a dam and the water flowing through it (seepage), with the purpose to enhance safety. However, we suggest that these systems actually may produce false emotions of safety and security, reinforcing a paradigm of perceived control of nature’s forces and thereby may contribute to decreased safety and human security.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlshamn: Makerere University and the Research Division of Technoscience Studies at Blekinge Institute of Technology , 2016. Vol. 1, no 1, 1-14 p.
Keyword [en]
Sweden, Remote Control, safety, risk, dam safety, human security, control rooms, bodies.
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Social Sciences Gender Studies Social Sciences Interdisciplinary International Migration and Ethnic Relations
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-283430OAI: diva2:919078
Dammed: Security, risk and resilience around the dams of sub-arctica
Swedish Research Council, 2009-1736Swedish Research Council Formas, 2012-1845
Available from: 2016-04-12 Created: 2016-04-12 Last updated: 2016-09-07Bibliographically approved

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Öhman, May-BrittThunqvist, Eva-Lotta
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