The Anthropocene is global and planetary; during the St. Louis Anthropocene Field Campus, we’ll discover it locally and on the level of the everyday.

Participants in the St. Louis Anthropocene Field Campus will learn about St. Louis as a vital site of the Anthropocene while learning tactics for engaging the Anthropocene in different settings around the world. We will learn about work underway in St. Louis in response to the Anthropocene and about strategies for drawing out the many scales (nano to macro) and types of systems (ecological, social, cultural, political, economic, technological, and atmospheric) that produce what social theorists Eli Elioff and Tyson Vaughn have termed “quotidian anthropocenes.” 

The Mississippi River and sites along it are anthropocenic in particularly acute ways. It is a complexly engineered, overextended, soiled, and stratified landscape, often referred to as the backbone of America. It is both intensely agricultural and intensely industrial. It is highly subject to extreme weather and floods, and to risks of active as well as abandoned coal, nuclear and chemical facilities. The effects of the Mississippi River are also far reaching. In the summer of 2017, for example, the deadzone in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River was the largest ever recorded.

The Mississippi River region is also populated by creative communities and educational, research, and arts institutions that have mapped, visualized, and planned for the future of the region in impressive ways. During the field school, representatives of the region will share their tactics, findings, and visions. Together, field school participants will draw out comparisons with other sites, asking questions that require interdisciplinary collaboration: How has the Mississippi Region been documented, analyzed, and described thus far, and how have these practices set the stage for further work today? How can “the Anthropocene” – and particularly local, quotidian anthropocenes – be usefully measured, narrated, and visualized? What kinds of civic institutions are needed to develop, share, and archive Anthropocene research in different places?

The St. Louis Field Campus and the Mississippi River School Open Seminar are part of the larger Mississippi: An Anthropocene River project, which bring together people actively responding to the massive social, cultural, and environmental changes associated with the Anthropocene in the Mississippi River region. The Mississippi River project follows a series of other Anthropocene projects focused on Europe, Philadelphia, and Australia organized by local groups collaborating with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Germany’s national center for contemporary arts. 

The Mississippi River School Open Seminar is convened by Haus der Kulturen der Welt, the Max Planck Institute for the History of ScienceDrexel University (Philadelphia), and the University of California Irvine (UCI), working with collaborators in St. Louis including Art+Landscape St. Louis, the Institute of Marking and Measuring, and St. Louis Map Room. The Open Seminar is led by Scott Gabriel Knowles (Drexel) and Kim Fortun (UCI). 

Project Sponsors

Mississippi: An Anthropocene River is developed and organized by Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (HKW), and Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin (MPIWG), in collaboration with numerous international partners. It is a part of the Anthropocene Curriculum (since 2013), an international long-term project for experimental forms of Anthropocene research and education.

The project Mississippi. An Anthropocene River is a part of the „Year of German-American Friendship” initiative in 2018/19 under the motto “Wunderbar together”. The „Year of German-American Friendship“ is a comprehensive and collaborative initiative funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, implemented by the Goethe-Institut, and with support from the Federation of German Industries (BDI).


The deadline for applications is Monday, February 8 and accepted participants will be notified by February 11. Applicants should send a brief statement (250 words maximum) of their interest in the St. Louis Field Campus, describing how it relates to their ongoing interests (even if these interests are just beginning to cohere). Participation in the Open Seminar (including food and transportation) is free. Participants will pay travel and lodging costs. We are working to arrange very affordable lodging for participants from outside St. Louis. Please send your application statement, contact information, and brief cv to Jason Ludwig at: jasondludwig@gmail.com



Participants join the River School’s online research platform and begin sharing found documents – maps, environmental and social data, photographs, and so on – about the St. Louis region as a way to jump-start collaborative work and engagement with St. Louis. Prior knowledge of St. Louis will be valued but isn’t expected.


The field school will start with a research-share in which participants throw in what they have learned about St. Louis so far, collectively creating “watershed knowledge.” We’ll also run comparisons with other sites, in process generating more questions about St. Louis. The afternoon session will be led by local filmmakers, photographers and activists, including Tony West, director of Safe Side of the Fence, a documentary film about a St. Louis facility (now shut-down) that refined uranium for the U.S Manhattan Project. Dinner will be in the Granite City Art and Design District (GCADD) in Granite City, Illinois.


On Saturday, we will work in and with local museums and libraries, producing our own maps while imagining the kinds of civic infrastructure (social and technical) needed to support work addressing the Anthopocene. In the afternoon, we’ll tour the landscape, again ending in GCADD, Granite City.


On Sunday, we’ll start with another research-share, laying ground for collaboration after the field school for those interested. During the afternoon, we’ll do a Floodplain Transect Walk guided by Jesse Vogler and Matthew Fluharty, Institute of Marking and Measuring. The day will end with an arts exhibit at GCADD. 


The St. Louis Anthropocene Field Campus aims to produce deep understanding of St. Louis and the Mississippi River as sites of the Anthropocene, while building tactics and a collaborative community for engaging the Anthropocene at different scales and sites around the world. Work during the Field Campus will contribute to a digital research space and exhibition that can continue to grow, supporting sustained collaboration among geographically dispersed Anthropocene researchers and activists. The digital exhibit and reports from the Field School will be presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science in New Orleans, September 2019, where we will also beseeking critical feedback and new collaborators. We’ll also walk New Orleans, envisioning it as yet another site of the Anthropocene, bringing comparative perspective from St. Louis and beyond.