This essay tells the history of rural electrification during the New Deal in the United States as a technology of government. In this sense, it argues that rural electrification (the technologies that made it possible, the institutional apparatuses established for its management, and the discursive practices deployed in its actualization) helped construct, maintain, and solidify emerging notions of the “rural”—understood here as a specific territory-population nexus. The essay argues that even though this new conception of the rural had been in the making since the early years of the twentieth century, rural electrification became a technology of the New Deal regime inasmuch as it helped give the rural a conceptual rigor that turned it into a governable object. In the process, rural electrification (1) differentiated the concept of the rural from other concurrent, often interchangeable concepts like “country folks,” “farmers,” and “frontier dwellers,” and (2) constructed and articulated together technical apparatuses of electricity, an old/new category of rural space, and an old/new category of rural population. More specifically, rural electrification produced the rural population-territory nexus as a legible object of government.

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