Cultural models, landscapes, and large dams
Lovern, Elizabeth Marie Harvey
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This work systematically explores the discourse of the human and environmental impact of the Santee Cooper hydroelectric system developed in the South Carolina coastal plain. This federal New Deal government project occurred during 1938-1942 and inundated over 160,000 acres of wetlands and climax forest, displacing many long-time residents, their homes, farms, and communities, with dammed lakes and hydroelectric facilities. A major question addressed by this research is, “How do people perceive large-scale environmental change?” In a text analysis of primary documents, I analyze the discourse strategies the promoters of the development and those protesting it employed to support their assertions about the Santee basin landscape. I then introduce a broader cultural model framework in the form of an oral history ethnography to show how citizens in Berkeley County remember and currently interpret the changes wrought on the local landscape and in their lives. Shared by each of the cultural models through analysis are the themes of progress and destruction attributed to the development of the project.