2023-24 Lloyd & Susanne Rudolph Field Research Fellow



Project Title: Tremors of the Anthropocene Hydro-Electric Reason and the Industrialization of India



On December 11, 1967, the people of Koynanagar in Western India were rudely woken up by the Tremors of the Anthropocene in a region that was assumed to be seismically stable. A large earthquake rent the land, marking a break with the past that could not be grouted over as easily as the cracks in the nearby Koyna hydroelectric dam were. Scientists from across the world engaged in lively debates about the possible causes of this earthquake but eventually came to an overlapping consensus: it had something to do with the dam. I will plot a history of hydroelectric projects in Western India from 1887-1967 in order to understand how and why storing water in this region came to cause such tremors. My dissertation will braid together the histories of hydroelectricity and industrialization in India, exploring the ideas about the nonhuman world that were operationalized in large dams, the ends that these dams were designed to serve, and the global political and economic developments that influenced their materialization. By studying the capitalists and engineers who first used Hydroelectric Reason to try to destroy the Indian handloom industry, the urbanists who believed in its potential to free their city from smoke, the farmers who resisted its appropriation of their land, the monsoon rains that refused to be turned into its standing reserve, and many more actors at local, imperial, global, and planetary levels, I expect and hope to be able to tell a story that is both eventful and multifaceted.






Sachaet is a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago’s Department of History. His current work interrogates the historical and ideological foundations of 19th and 20th-century infrastructural projects in South Asia, and seeks to address their earth-shattering consequences. Methodologically, his work brings together the insights of new and historical materialisms, science and technology studies, critical theory, and postcolonial studies to tell a global and even planetary story about the many entanglements of South Asian pasts in the Anthropocene.