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Mississippi. An Anthropocene River

A research project on the novel epistemic, aesthetic, and educational challenges of the Anthropocene
2018–2019

Meandering Mississippi. Map by Harold N. Fisk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1944 | Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River

Meandering Mississippi. Map by Harold N. Fisk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1944 | Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River

How can the Anthropocene be made legible on a regional level without dismissing its inherent complexity? Mississippi. An Anthropocene River explores the environmental, economic and socio-political realities that have come to form the Mississippi River and its adjacent regions in its present state. Until November 2019, interdisciplinary groups of researchers, artists and stakeholders from civil society will investigate the river basin to develop local approaches to issues of planetary change.

The Mississippi River’s meandering path has carved out an iconic landscape in US mythology and has become a symbol for human impact. Barely a river but more of a floodplain before, it was massively dredged in the 20th century. Its ecology has evolved as a constantly shifting ecosystem, a catchment of cultures, a water highway for resources and goods, and a sink for pollutants: from the logging zones in the Upper River area to the petrochemical centers in the Delta; from the industrial agricultural landscapes of the Midwest to the “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico; from the historic transportation network enabling the egregious trade of human forced labor to the social injustices of poverty and deindustrialization today.

Since 2018 five Field Stations highlight and share historical and contemporary issues of specific regions in field researches, public forums and workshops along the river. Starting September 1, canoes and vans will embark on a 100-day River Journey gathering the explorations of the Field Stations. Participants will document and bring the findings downstream, thus tying the different narratives together. In a weeklong series of experimental seminars in November the Anthropocene River Campus: The Human Delta in New Orleans will mark a conceptual contraction of the project’s approaches, informed by the research works of the Field Stations. An Anthropocene River School transforms the field site data into an ongoing, collaborative teaching enterprise - both on site and online.

2018–2019

The Field Stations