2016 Archives

SMU Clements Center awards top book prize to 'Power Lines'

Andrew Needham examines burden borne by Navajos in transforming Phoenix into modern metropolis

January 13, 2016

Power Lines: Phoenix and the Making of the Modern SouthwestDALLAS (SMU)SMU’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies will present its annual book prize on Wednesday, Feb. 10, to historian Andrew Needham for Power Lines: Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest (Princeton University Press, 2014). 

The David J. Weber-William P. Clements Prize for the Best Non-Fiction Book on Southwestern America honors both the center’s founding director and founding benefactor.

Andrew Needham
Andrew Needham

In Power Lines, Needham explores how, with help from the Navajo Nation, Phoenix grew from a small agricultural center to a sprawling metropolis in the years after World War II. Yet such transformation didn’t come without a cost, most of which was shouldered by the Navajo, who saw precious little come their way other than strip mines and pollution in return for helping Phoenix become the thriving city it is today.

In selecting the book, judges wrote, “Needham reveals how the rise of Phoenix as the central city of the Southwest depended on a colonial relationship with the Navajo Reservation nearly three hundred miles to the north. The electrical lines that powered air conditioners and industry – and thus the made possible the phenomenal growth of the metropolis – extended outward to the hinterlands of Navajo Country ... Navajos bore the environmental costs and received little of the electricity and economic prosperity they had hoped for.”

Needham is associate professor of history at New York University.  He will be honored Wednesday, Feb. 10 at a 5:30 p.m. reception, followed by a 6 p.m. lecture and book-signing at McCord Auditorium in Dallas Hall, 3225 University, SMU. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. To register, call 214-768-3684 or click here.

The $2,500 Weber-Clements Book Prize, administered by the Western History Association, honors fine writing and original research on the American Southwest. The competition is open to any nonfiction book, including biography, on any aspect of Southwestern life, past or present. 

The William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies is affiliated with the Department of History within SMU's Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. The center was created to promote research, publishing, teaching and public programming in a variety of fields related to the American Southwest.  

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Media Contact:

Kenny Ryan
214-768-7641
khryan@smu.edu