University of Wisconsin Press colophon



University of Wisconsin Madison crest that links to main university site

Association of University Presses member logo that links to main AUPresses site



Catalog Archive / Fall 2019

Dead in the Water
Global Lessons from the World Bank's Model Hydropower Project in Laos
Edited by Bruce Shoemaker and William Robichaud

New Perspectives in Southeast Asian Studies
Alfred W. McCoy, Ian G. Baird, Katherine A. Bowie, and Anne Ruth Hansen, Series Editors

“Extremely insightful and succinct, this volume shows how badly the Nam Theun 2 dam project has failed across the areas of indigenous rights and development, sustaining fisheries and river life, livelihoods of the displaced, protecting wildlife, and forestry and the commons. An important book.”
—Michael Goldman, author of Imperial Nature: The World Bank and Struggles for Social Justice in the Age of Globalization

In the 2000s, as the World Bank was reeling from past hydropower failures, it promoted the Nam Theun 2 dam project. They believed this dam offered a new, wiser model of development that would alleviate poverty, protect the environment, engage local communities, and stimulate political transformation. Despite assertions of success from agencies involved in the project, the story of the dam has been one of substantial loss. In this volume, a diverse group of experts—involved for years with Nam Theun 2—issue an urgent call for critical reassessment of the approach to, and rationale for, these kinds of large infrastructure projects in developing countries.


Author. Photo credit, Name Bruce Shoemaker is an independent researcher and author of The People and Their River: River-based Livelihoods in the Xe Bang Fai Basin in Laos

Author. Photo credit, Name William Robichaud is an award-winning conservation biologist who has worked in Southeast Asia for more than twenty-five years.




“A significant contribution.”

“This book provides a fascinating account of how, with the NT2, the World Bank and the [government of the Lao PDR] took the first steps on the dam-building program that has brought us to where we are now.”
Water Alternatives Book Review

“An essential sourcebook for anyone interested in Lao PDR, hydropower in the Mekong basin, or indeed broader questions of the political ecology of conservation and development.The volume is also relevant for those interested in the social and environmental implications of large infrastructure projects underway in the region under the umbrella of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. A close reading of Dead in the Water is highly recommended.”
Southeast Asian Studies

“The book, overall, is a tremendous accomplishment by the editors to bring together a range of contributors, many working on this issue for decades, to understand the broader impacts of international aid, development, and poverty alleviation in Laos via the NT2 hydropower project.”
—Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography

“Offers a new understanding of Laos in a difficult period of nation building and development [and] a vital lesson to policy planners, scholars, and INGOs encountering the illusory success of a globalizing economy.”
—Yos Santasombat, from the foreword



Also in the Series


Hamka’s Great Story
A Master Writer’s Vision of Islam for Modern Indonesia
James R. Rush

Dead in the Water: Cover showing a barren tree resting in the middle of a lake, a vast, cloudy sky rolling behind it.  The clouds and background are grayscale, while the tree and lake are spot colored. The title text is written in a contrasting red, with the bottom of the word 'water' sinking into the lake.

Larger images

New in Paperback!
November 2019
LC: 2017044548 TK
384 pp. 6 x 9
22 b/w illus., 5 maps

Book icon
Paper $22.95 S
ISBN 9780299317942
Shopping cart

Review Cart

Book icon
Cloth $79.95 S
ISBN 9780299317904
Shopping cart

Review Cart