Learning to Live with Floods

Hurricane_AgnesBy Pierre cb (NOAA) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Supported by a Bucknell Humanities Center Programming Fellowship from 2019-2021, Learning to Live with Floods is an interdisciplinary and community-based exploration of extreme rain events and their legacies.

This project draws from traditions in history and the performing arts to understand diverse human and more-than-human experiences with flood waters—past, present, and future. The people and landscapes of the Susquehanna Valley will serve as the principal objects of critical humanist inquiry, while also acting as collaborators in knowledge production and the beneficiaries of public scholarship. Current collaborators include Julie Louisa Hagenbuch (Stories on Tap), Elaine Williams (Prof. Theater and Dance, Bucknell University), Jerry Stropnicky (Bloomsburg Theater Ensemble), Peterson Toscano (Citizens Climate Radio), and Joel Gori (Metamorphosis Performing). Bethany Fitch (Bucknell Class of ’23, Environmental Studies and Sciences and Theater and Dance) has conducted much of the initial research, including nearly twenty oral histories with survivors of Tropical Storm Agnes (1972). Of interest specifically are histories, memories, and meanings of flooding—as well as how the humanities can contribute to flood resilience in the face of increasing frequency of intense storms.

The centerpiece of Learning to Live with Floods will be a theatrical performance on Earth Day, 2021 (April 22, 2021). Still in the design phase, this performance will translate archival records and oral histories into monologues, scenes, images, songs, and more. This performance will become the foundation for a tour of performances to take place in June 2022, the 50th anniversary of Tropical Storm Agnes.

In imagining this event, this proposal takes inspiration from similar public humanities initiatives, including Learning to Live with Water (University of Gloucestershire), Changing Currents (University of Illinois), Water Matters (Smithsonian Institute), and the Water and the City Symposium (Vrije Universiteit).

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