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Interview with Thayer Scudder

Scudder, Thayer (2004) Interview with Thayer Scudder. [Oral History]

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An interview in four sessions, in December 2000, and January and February 2001, with Thayer (Ted) Scudder, professor of anthropology, emeritus, in the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Dr. Scudder received his BA at Harvard College (1952) and his PhD at Harvard University (1960). He joined the Caltech faculty as an assistant professor in 1964, received tenure in 1966, and became a full professor in 1969. In this wide-ranging interview, he recalls his upbringing as a “college brat” in Swarthmore, where his father was a professor of English; his education at The Fenn School and Phillips Exeter; his early interest in bird watching and mountaineering, and his eventual turn, in graduate school, to anthropology. He discusses the fieldwork in the Middle Zambezi Valley with Elizabeth Colson among the Gwembe Tonga that led to his dissertation, and his subsequent studies on hydro-politics and the impact of resettlement of indigenous people to make way for huge dam projects, such as the Kariba Dam and the Aswan High Dam. He recalls Caltech in the mid-sixties, his first friendships there, and the advent of the social sciences program. He describes the Scudder theory of successful resettlement and its four stages: pre-dam planning; adaptation to new habitat accompanied by physiological, psychological, and sociocultural stress; community formation and economic development; and handing over to the succeeding generation. He discusses the impact of dams on people living downstream; his work on transboundary flood regimes; his appointment to the World Commission on Dams in 1998; and the findings in their November 2000 report and the various reactions to it.

Item Type:Oral History
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Scudder_T
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Scudder, Thayer. Interview by Shirley K. Cohen. Pasadena, California, December 19 and 27, 2000, January 3 and February 20, 2001. Oral History Project, California Institute of Technology Archives. Retrieved [supply date of retrieval] from the World Wide Web:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
Subjects:All Records
Subjects > Social Sciences
ID Code:258
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:30 Aug 2017 19:13
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:24

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