For thousands of years, people living along the Yangtze owed their lives to the river. It provided the villages and the towns with a metabolic system, offered them fresh water and took away their waste. However, this long established equilibrium between human settlements and the river changed completely on June 1, 2003, when the Three Gorges Reservoir’s impoundment began. As the reservoir level rose, the state officials were astonished by the floating trash appeared in front of the newly finished dam. The trash accumulated, piled up and became such a catastrophic scene for the technological perfection – the Three Gorges Project (TGP). What the state officials didn’t realize is that the floating waste would become a recurrent event that happens every year during the flood season. The TGP, on the one hand, transformed the Yangtze River into an electricity-generating water machine. On the other hand, it also cut off the traditional connection between the river and the towns. Rather than being carried away by the river, the waste is trapped in the reservoir by the dam, contaminating the water until it’s no longer fresh and drinkable.
This thesis can be seen as a mapping project that employs two major medias, which are the texts and the maps. Unlike the land surveys conducted by the states and the military, the maps foreground the movements and the actions of human and nonhuman actors in the four interrelating ecologies mentioned above. These two medias in this paper support each other; the maps ground the verbal analyses and connect them back to the site, while the texts provide a non-spatial description of the social assemblies that are affecting the wastesacpe. Through mapping, this thesis not only reverses the figure and the ground of the geographic knowledge of the Three Gorges Region but also flips the passive the active in this spatial power play.