April 2nd, 2013

The Center for Asian Research’s Brown Bag Lecture Series: “Japanese Development Consultancies and Post-Colonial Power in SoutheastAsia: The Case of Balu Chaung Dam in Burma (1954-1960)”

Aaron S. Moore
Asst. Professor of History
School of Philosophical, Historical, and Religious Studies
12:00-1:30 pm
COOR 6615

This talk will examine the role of hydropower in the construction of the influential paradigm of “comprehensive development” (s?g? kaihatsu) in post-war Japan’s foreign aid policy. Originating in the colonial era when Japanese engineers planned and constructed large dams in Manchuria and Korea as part of building a “national defense economy,” the notion of comprehensive development centered on hydropower was reconstituted in the post-war and became integral to the emergence of its “developmentalist state” model of rapid economic development, which became popular among Asia’s newly rising economies.

My talk will focus specifically on the early post-war career of one of Japan’s leading development engineers, Kubota Yutaka—a designer of dams during the colonial era—and his company, Nippon K?ei. By examining his earliest post-war hydropower project in formerly occupied Burma, this paper traces the colonial continuities and post-colonial evolution of the “comprehensive development” paradigm—the integrated planning of flood control, electricity production, agricultural development, and transportation centering on large-scale dam construction as a means to most rapidly promote industrialization and regional development. In doing so, it seeks to understand some of the neo-colonial ways in which power and ideology operated specifically through hydropower development during the early Cold War era.