Proceedings of the annual meeting of the Southern Anthropological Society


In 1979, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) closed the gates on the Tellico Dam and transformed the last thirty-three free flowing miles of the Little Tennessee River into the Tellico Reservoir. The dam led to the physical, spiritual, and affective displacement of various groups of people who all shared a collective attachment to the land and the river. These individuals witnessed the landscape transform from an agrarian space to an area that is now populated and managed by middle-class and upper-middle-class lakefront communities. This paper attempts to understand the post-Tellico Dam landscape by examining how the different groups of displaced peoples are choosing to re-emplace themselves in the new landscape. I employ Margaret Rodman’s multivocality approach to examine Tellico as a multivocal landscape that is shaped by the multiple meanings and narratives that have been ascribed to the land. I argue that the multivocality of the Tellico landscape involves a contested arena where feelings of territorialization, land entitlement, and a lack of belonging shape how displaced individuals choose to participate, or not participate, in this new landscape. Based on ethnographic research, this study contributes to debates about large development projects and the making of dispossessed populations, how various types of displacement are experienced by individuals and communities, and the importance of multivocality and territoriality to how new places are understood. This is the first anthropological study that examines the political ecology of the Tellico Dam and one of the few studies examining the socioenvironmental impacts of TVA projects in the U.S. South.

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