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 will be an interdisciplinary and community-based exploration of hurricanes, extreme rain events, and other ‘freak’ storms. It will draw on history, ethics, literary analysis, creative writing, film/media studies, and the performing arts to understand diverse 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. 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. This approach builds from research I will conduct during sabbatical in AY ’19-’20.

The centerpiece of Learning to Live with Floods will be a series of events attached to the annual Lewisburg Arts Festival, commonly held the final weekend of April. The Arts Festival attracts hundreds of arts vendors and thousands of Valley residents to downtown Lewisburg. In so doing, the Festival creates a unique stage and audience for a variety of public scholarship activities. These include film screenings and discussions at Campus Theater, open-mic storytelling and spoken word events at local restaurants, showcases of music and dance on the streets, and community discussions and installations of public history and art exhibits in Bucknell spaces on Market Street. The bulk of the funding for the position will be dedicated to invited speakers, procuring film screening rights, and supporting exhibits, installations, and performances. 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). This event may also interact productively with the natural science-based River Symposium, hosted each fall on campus by the Center for Sustainability and the Environment.

To broaden and deepen engagement with the centerpiece event, Learning to Live with Floods will also create a year-long interdisciplinary learning community. I will identify and mentor 4 Public Humanities Fellows drawn from the Arts and Humanities division from August ’20 to May ‘21. These positions will be funded by the Programming Fellow’s budget (~$750 per Fellow, per semester). After selection through an application process, the student Fellows will work as a group and individually to bridge research during my sabbatical year and the Arts Festival event. This may include meeting with community members, continuing archival research, conducting re-photography, designing exhibits, and more. Moreover, in Spring ’21, I will teach a section of ENST 225: Susquehanna Country (cross listed as ENLS 225, HUMN 290, and UNIV 241). This course will investigate the Susquehanna Valley through humanities lenses while actively developing, supporting, and executing programming during the Arts Festival. Finally, I hope that, through my work, and that of the Fellows and ENST 225 students, we can excite faculty and students at Bucknell to establish longer-term humanistic inquiry into flooding and flood resilience in the region.

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