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 was an interdisciplinary and community-based exploration of extreme rain events and their legacies. The central case study was Tropical Storm Agnes (1972), the Susquehanna River basin’s worst natural disaster.

The main outcomes of this project were:

  • Agnes, Revisiteda multi-media performance, held on Zoom, and based on original historical research on Tropical Storm Agnes (1972), including more than 20 oral histories with flood survivors. The original performance had more than 200 live attendees and has been viewed 1400 times since April 2021 (as of May 2022)
  • Stories on Tap: Flooded – a public storytelling event held in conjunction with Julie Louisa Hagenbuch in Fall 2020 on the 8th anniversary of Super Storm Sandy. The theme of flooding was explored in multiple directions: Devastating storms that inundate entire towns. Building back when the waters recede. Torrents of information. Swells of emotion. Keeping your head above water. In all these ways, floods shape our lives.
  • Two workshops on the arts, civic engagement, and climate justice – “Pursuing our Passions in a time of Climate Change,” led by Peterson Toscano and “Stories for Social Change: From Science Communication to Citizen Engagement”  by Gerard Stropnicky

This project drew 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 served as the principal objects of critical humanist inquiry, while also acting as collaborators in knowledge production and the beneficiaries of public scholarship. Collaborators included Julie Louisa Hagenbuch (Stories on Tap), Jerry Stropnicky (Bloomsburg Theater Ensemble), and Peterson Toscano (Citizens Climate Radio). Bethany Fitch (Bucknell Class of ’23, Environmental Studies and Sciences and Theater and Dance) conducted significant original research and helped plan and execute several programs, events, and community-based initiatives.

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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