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 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, Drexel 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).
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?