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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

How the American South Transformed the World

Tore Olsson, Assistant ProfessorCollege of Arts & Sciences - History

The American South – and particularly our corner of it in East Tennessee – is commonly imagined as insular, isolated, and disconnected from the larger world. In fact, this is far from true. In this presentation, I demonstrate how twentieth-century efforts to overcome poverty in the region – particularly through the Tennessee Valley Authority – came to serve as a model for accomplishing similar goals in places as far-flung as Mexico, India, and Afghanistan. After World War II, countless governments in the so-called "Third World" looked to the Tennessee Valley for lessons in rationalizing water, land use, and human society, along the way transforming millions of lives and vast ecologies. East Tennessee, it turns out, has a global footprint far greater than you may expect!

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